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Chinese studio Huayi Brothers to invest $130 million in new U.S. branch

Chinese studio Huayi Brothers to invest $130 million in new U.S. branch
Brad Pitt poses at a media event to promote his latest film, "Fury," at the Bovington Tank Museum in Dorset, Britain, on Aug. 28. (Leon Neal / AFP/Getty Images)

After dominating mainland China's 2013 box office with $487.6 million in receipts, Beijing-based studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp. has announced plans to expand into the United States.

Huayi Brothers said it plans to invest $130 million to establish a wholly owned subsidiary in the U.S. for producing and distributing movies and TV shows, the company said in a regulatory filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange late Monday.

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It didn't release any details on the office location or the number of employees it expects to staff its operation. The plan still needs approval from Chinese authorities, the company said.

Wang Zhongjun, chairman of Huayi Brothers, has expressed interest in expanding the company's business internationally on various occasions. Earlier this year, Huayi Brothers had pursued a deal to invest up to $150 million in a new production company, Studio 8, set up by Jeff Robinov, the former president of Warner Bros.

Negotiations between Huayi Brothers and Studio 8 reportedly fell apart in June, leaving the opportunity to Chinese investment firm Fosun International, which committed to investing $200 million in Studio 8.

Founded in 1994 by brothers Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei, Huayi Brothers has become one of the most successful Chinese film-production companies in recent years. It released "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons" in 2013, which went on to generate over $200 million in box-office receipts and became the second-biggest grossing film from a Chinese company.

The company's total box office from the eight movies it released in the mainland in 2013 was $487.6 million, the highest among Chinese film-production companies. Huayi Brothers has a fruitful partnership with Chinese action star Jackie Chan, with box-office hits such as "Rob-B-Hood" in 2006 and "CZ12" in 2012.

The upcoming war movie "Fury," starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, is co-produced by Huayi Brothers and is set to be in theaters in October. The company said in May that it is involved in two Hollywood movies slated for 2015: the political thriller "John Wick," featuring Keanu Reeves, and the Lionsgate action comedy "Mortdecai," starring Johnny Depp.

Huayi Brothers' announcement of a U.S. subsidiary comes just weeks after Chinese real estate firm, cinema operator and film producer-distributor Wanda Group said it would set up an L.A. office to handle entertainment-sector investments -- including investment in local film production companies or global theatrical releases.

Tommy Yang in the Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.  

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