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Disney cuts co-development deal with Shanghai Media Group Pictures

Disney cuts co-development deal with Shanghai Media Group Pictures
Walt Disney Studios and Shanghai Media Group Pictures have stuck a multiyear partnership agreement to co-develop Disney-branded movies that would be released in China. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Walt Disney Studios and Shanghai Media Group Pictures have stuck a multiyear partnership agreement to co-develop Disney-branded movies that would be released in China and other international markets.

China's film business is expanding rapidly. Last year, its total box office take topped $3.6 billion, up about 27% from 2012. According to Motion Picture Assn. of America data, the country is the world's second-biggest movie market behind the United States.

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Under terms of the deal, Disney Studios, a unit of Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., would pair U.S.-based writers with writers and filmmakers in China to collaborate on movie projects.

The films, local Chinese co-productions, would feature "Chinese elements," Disney said in a statement. The pictures could also be released in the U.S.

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"For over 90 years Disney has built a rich legacy of entertaining families with high-quality storytelling and compelling characters," Disney Studios President Alan Bergman said in a statement. "Disney's collaboration with SMG adds an exciting chapter of new stories for the next generation of global Disney fans."

Tony To, Disney Studios' executive vice president of production, will oversee the co-development program.

According to an English-language version of Shanghai Media Group's website, the company was created in 2001 when several Chinese television and radio companies were combined. The company has since branched out into print and digital media and film.

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Disney has made other efforts to break into the Chinese film market. A version of the 2013 superhero film "Iron Man 3" that was shown in China included special footage featuring local star Fan Bingbing in an effort to court local audiences there. The movie grossed more than $120 million in China.

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In 2012, Disney, along with the Ministry of Culture's China Animation Group, was named founding partner of the National Chinese Animation Creative Research and Development Project.

Disney also is building Shanghai Disney Resort, which is slated to open at the end of 2015.

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