China’s Alibaba buys stake in Spielberg firm
CHINESE internet billionaire Jack Ma has joined forces with cinema legend Steven Spielberg to produce and distribute films, they announced, the latest major tie-up between China and Hollywood.
Alibaba Pictures, a unit of Mr Ma’s sprawling e-commerce conglomerate, said it had taken a minority stake in Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, a film creation company that includes DreamWorks studios.
The deal will see the companies co-finance and co-produce movies for Chinese and international audiences, Alibaba said.
Alibaba Pictures will also have a seat on the board of Amblin. Financial details were not disclosed.
At a press conference in Beijing on October 9, Mr Spielberg said the partnership will allow him to “bring more China to America and bring more America to China”, according to the Alibaba statement.
Mr Ma said that while the US and China the company will focus on human stories and serve as a bridge between the two countries.
The partnership will give Mr Spielberg’s company access to Alibaba’s online ecosystem and films will be distributed through streaming platforms such as the group’s Youtube-like Youku Toudu.
The deal is the latest in a wave of Chinese money flowing to Hollywood, with real estate developer turned media conglomerate Wanda buying Jurassic World creator Legendary Entertainment for US$3.5 billion earlier this year.
Foreign film companies are heavily restricted from entering China’s booming market, with government caps limiting the number of nonChinese movies that can be shown.
To get around restrictions, Hollywood studios have sought partnerships with local companies.
In an interview posted on the company website Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei said the tie-up was “not just a financial investment” and that the company chose Amblin over other Hollywood partners because their early conversations did not focus only on funding.
“There’s a lot of hot money from China floating around Hollywood right now, and we’ve had quite a few people approaching us wanting a partnership,” she said.
Wanda’s Hollywood ambitions have raised eyebrows in the US, with lawmakers suggesting that company chair Wang Jianlin has close ties to the Chinese government and may be seeking to exert “propaganda controls on American media”, trade magazine Variety reported. –