Huayi focuses on Hollywood deals for five movies a year

Updated: 2014-03-07 08:17

By Huang Ying (China Daily USA)

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Huayi Brothers Media Corp, one of China's leading entertainment conglomerates, is in talks with other investors about financing films produced by Jeff Robinov, the former film chief at Warner Bros Entertainment Inc, according to a media report.

Robinov, who served as president of the company's Warner Bros Pictures Group from 2007 to 2013, plans to set up a production company that would turn out about five movies a year with funding from Beijing-based Huayi and other potential investors, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc will most likely release these movies, according to people familiar with the deal, the report said.

If a deal is reached, it would be the largest of its kind in years and the most significant investment by a Chinese enterprise in Hollywood.

Wang Duan, assistant to Wang Zhongjun, the chairman of Huayi, told China Daily that details of the deal aren't clear yet and that "only the boss" can answer questions.

An official statement will be released when the deal closes, the assistant said.

"The proposed cooperation is in line with the general trend of Hollywood moviemakers striving for a better showing in the world's second-largest film market.

Huayi focuses on Hollywood deals for five movies a year

"Likewise, the Chinese parties want a deeper involvement in the global film business," said Peng Kan, research and development director of the Beijing-based consultancy company Legend Media.

Chairman Wang told the China Securities Journal recently that he wants to take Huayi further along the path to development as an international player starting this year, engaging more with Hollywood industry players.

Huayi has been seeking more clout in Hollywood for quite some time.

Fury, a Hollywood blockbuster starring US actors Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, is set for a North American release in November, and it's likely to enter Chinese theaters at the same time. Huayi was a major investor in the film, which has a budget of $75 million.

Huayi also helped finance three other Hollywood productions that are scheduled for release in 2015, including two animated features.

Huayi reported revenue of 2 billion yuan ($328 million) in 2013, up 45.2 percent, with net profit surging 172.7 percent to 667 million yuan.

The combination of capital from China, the movie mogul's extensive industry connections and Sony's strong distribution networks will make the new venture competitive, Peng said.

But there are risks in the deal. For example, Sony had a hard time last summer, mainly because of two big-budget flops-White House Down and After Earth-which were responsible for its fall in the top 10 US film distributors list by market share. Its position declined from first in 2012 to fourth in 2013.

"A lack of clear corporate development orientation is to blame for Sony's performance decline last year," said Shao Gang, deputy director of consulting for the culture and entertainment industry at Horizon Research Consultancy Group in Beijing

For Huayi, the significance of the deal is perhaps more symbolic than anything, Shao said.

"Another potential risk (is that) film producers have to satisfy a global audience as well as Chinese moviegoers when it comes to the content" of movies, said Peng.

Robinov left the US film studio in June last year after losing a contest for the chief executive officer's job to home-entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara.

(China Daily USA 03/07/2014 page17)