China’s Alibaba buys stake in Spiel­berg firm

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

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. –

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