Hel­loHol­ly­wood! says Alibaba with stake in Spiel­berg com­pany

China Daily (USA) - - FILM |LIFE - By XU­FAN xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ma Yun, aka Jack Ma, is again show­ing his am­bi­tion to be part of the world movie busi­ness.

The chair­man of Alibaba Group, who’s one of China’s rich­est peo­ple, has al­ready in­vested in Hol­ly­wood block­busters such as Mis­sion: Impossible 5 and Star Trek Be­yond.

Now, he is seek­ing an al­liance with Steven Spiel­berg.

Spiel­berg’s movies “talk of val­ues, kind­ness, for­give­ness and an op­ti­mistic fu­ture”, Ma told his au­di­ence at a Beijing event on Sun­day.

Be­fore that, Alibaba Pic­tures, the fil­mar­mof his tech gi­ant, signed a deal to pick up a mi­nor­ity stake in and a board seat on Spiel­berg’s Am­blin Part­ners, which plans to pro­duce up to nine films a year.

Am­blin’s The BFG, a Spiel­berg di­rec­to­rial fea­ture adapted from the 1982 name­sake chil­dren’s novel by Roald Dahl, will de­but on the main­land on Fri­day in 2-D, 3-D, Imax 3-D and Dmax for­mats.

The film was re­leased North Amer­ica in July.

For the Chi­nese ver­sion, the voice-over of the main char­ac­ters has been pro­vided by ac­tor Huang Lei and his 10-year-old daugh­ter, Huang Yici.

A ca­pa­ble com­pany CEO in the fu­ture could be “a com­puter, a ma­chine or an ET”, ac­cord­ing to Ma, whose group em­ploys nearly 40,000 peo­ple and serves 434 mil­lion users on on­line plat­forms.

ButMa also says ma­chines can’t re­place hu­mans in cre­at­ing works of art.

Spiel­berg, who first be­came known in China and much of Asia fol­low­ing his sci-fi mas­ter­piece E.T. the Ex­tra-Ter­res­trial (1982), echoes that be­lief.

“The fu­ture is not about high tech­nol­ogy, but about hu­man value. In the past 50 years, we’ve made hu­man be­ings like ma­chines. In the next few years, we’ll make ma­chines like hu­mans,” Spiel­berg said at the same Beijing event.

Yet to re­veal de­tails of their col­lab­o­ra­tion, Ma and Spiel­berg are ex­pected to bring some Chi­nese sto­ries to the sil­ver screen.

In ad­di­tion to The BFG, other well-known movies by Am­blin in­clude The Light be­tween Oceans, The Girl on the Train and A Dog’s Pur­pose.

While Ten­cent Pic­tures, the Chi­nese arm of an­other Chi­nese tech com­pany, Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd, is mainly fi­nanc­ing do­mes­tic films, in StarTrekBeyond. Alibaba seem­ingly fo­cuses onHol­ly­wood.

Zhang Wei, pres­i­dent of Alibaba Pic­tures, says the firm be­gan to ne­go­ti­ate with Am­blin ear­lier this year.

Many Hol­ly­wood stu­dios see Chi­nese com­pa­nies as just sources of cap­i­tal and as gate­ways into the Chi­nese mar­ket.

But the part­ner­ship be­tween Alibaba Pic­tures and Am­blin is dif­fer­ent, she says. Steven Spiel­berg, more

In the past 50 years, we’ve made hu­man be­ings like ma­chines. In the next few years, we’ll make ma­chines like hu­mans.” film­maker

Alibaba Pic­tures and Am­blin will work to­gether in dif­fer­ent as­pects of film­mak­ing, she says, from co­pro­duc­ing to mer­chan­dis­ing to dis­tri­bu­tion.

Since 2014, when Alibaba Group pur­chased a 60 per­cent stake in a Hong Kong­based com­pany and named it Alibaba Pic­tures, the movie sub­sidiary has yet to re­lease an in-house fea­ture.

Re­ly­ing on Hol­ly­wood skills to pol­ish the film­mak­ing is widely re­garded as one vi­tal el­e­ment for the deal.

Just a few days ear­lier, Shang­hai-based Fun­da­men­tal Films ac­quired a 28 per­cent stake in French di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son’s EuropaCorp for $67 mil­lion to be its sec­ond­largest share­holder.

Alibaba in­vest­ments in­clude

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