Alibaba offshoot gets stake in Spielberg firm

Updated: 2016-10-11 08:17


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Alibaba offshoot gets stake in Spielberg firm

Steven Spielberg, chairman of Amblin Partners, and Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, attend an event to announce a partnership in Beijing on Sunday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The film offshoot of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has purchased a minority stake in Amblin Partners, a production outfit backed by Steven Spielberg, the latest in a string of investments by Chinese companies to use Hollywood movie-making magic to fulfill their global ambitions.

The investment is part of a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement Alibaba Pictures Group inked with Amblin Partners in Beijing on Sunday as the internet film company builds its capacity in film production and content creation.

Zhang Wei, president of Alibaba Pictures, said that the Hong Kong-listed company aspires to become a studio that can produce content not only for the China market but for worldwide audiences. "That (goal) requires good skill in storytelling and Steven Spielberg is definitely the best of the best," she said.

The agreement with Amblin Partners marks Alibaba Pictures' most comprehensive partnership deal to date with agreement to work together on production, marketing and distribution both globally and in China and its first investment in Hollywood.

Neither of the two sides reveals the specific financial term of the deal but Alibaba Pictures will get to name a representative on Amblin Partners' board.

The tie-up between Alibaba Pictures and Los Angeles-based Amblin Partners is the latest among the spree of deals made in the past two years that intend to help Hollywood movies better access the China market, which is on track to become the world's largest, and Chinese companies to produce movies that have global influence.

Chen Shaofeng, deputy dean of Peking University's institute for cultural industries, said that the rising trend of China-Hollywood cooperation is based on mutual interest. "Chinese companies and Hollywood filmmakers need each other," he said.

Among Chinese companies, China's richest man Wang Jianlin's Dalian Wanda Group is the most aggressive one in terms of buying up Hollywood asset. Early this year, it bought the controlling stake in Jurassic World co-producer Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion and is said eyeing to buy Golden Globes show-runner Dick Clark Productions.

The acquisition spree has raised concern in Washington with lawmakers calling for greater scrutiny of Chinese investment in the US media industry.

Globalization is one of Alibaba Pictures' top priorities, but the company wants to take adifferent approach from Wanda. "With our platform-oriented approach, we have a mentality that can bring value to people rather than taking away value away from people. You don't see us coming to buy up Hollywood, buying up lots of assets," said Zhang.

Huang Guofeng, an analyst with Beijing-based consultancy Analysis, said Alibaba Pictures approach has more chance to be passed in the US rather than high-profile takeovers. "Setting up joint ventures in overseas market could be another option when Chinese entertainment firms get more overseas experience," he said.

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