Former Disney executive Dick Cook inks $500-million production deal with Chinese film company

Former Disney executive Dick Cook inks $500-million production deal with Chinese film company
Former Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook has made a $500-millionproduction deal with Chinese moviecompany Film Carnival. The venture is the latest in a series of notable partnerships between Hollywood firms and Chinese investors. (Walt Disney Pictures)

Dick Cook Studios, the namesake venture of the former Walt Disney Studios chairman, has signed a $500-million production deal with Film Carnival, a Chinese movie company.

Under terms of the agreement announced Tuesday, Film Carnival, which is based in China's Zhejiang province, will finance 100% of Cook's projects.

Dick Cook Studios, which is based in Los Angeles and has about a dozen employees, will handle development, production, worldwide distribution and marketing of the movies.

The first film under the pact is slated to be "Ranger's Apprentice" from director Paul Haggis. It is based on a series of fantasy books aimed at young adults.

The deal was signed last weekend.

Cook's venture with Film Carnival is the latest in a series of notable partnerships between Hollywood firms and Chinese investors.

Such deals have been attractive for Western entertainment companies seeking new sources of capital and access to China's massive movie market — the second largest in the world. Meanwhile, Chinese companies have benefited by gaining access to Western expertise on the film and TV business, among other advantages.

However, several high-profile pacts of this sort have not panned out. (Among the headline-grabbing failures was a deal between Beijing-based film company Huayi Bros. Media Corp. and Studio 8, the production company launched by former Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov.)

Last year, Cook launched his film and TV production company by announcing a $150-million investment from CITIC Guoan, a branch of China's state-owned CITIC Group whose interests include television, tourism, publishing and sports. That deal has closed, but Cook's studio has yet to receive financing under the arrangement, people familiar with the matter said.


Cook, who served as chairman of Walt Disney Studios from 2002 to 2009, praised Film Carnival in a statement, saying: "They are the perfect partners as they share our vision of telling great stories for the entire family to be enjoyed across the globe."

As part of the deal, Film Carnival "will pave the way for other Chinese investors to have the opportunity to invest in Dick Cook Studios motion pictures on an individual basis," a news release issued by the companies said. Also, Cook's company will aid Film Carnival in its production of a "proprietary slate of motion pictures in China."

Film Carnival is a relatively new player in the Chinese film business community. Starting in 2015, Film Carnival began investing in three "big-budget" films per year. the news release said. It also plans to build a "pan-entertainment center" with CITIC Guoan that would include movie theaters, hotels and a recreation center.

Dick Cook Studios and Film Carnival hosted the inaugural China-U.S. Motion Picture Summit on March 25 in Grand Epoch City, China. At the event — where the speakers included director Alfonso Cuaron — Cook told the Los Angeles Times that working to establish a business presence in China has been "harder than I think anybody could have ever imagined."

"It is important for us, because this is such a dynamic marketplace," Cook said. "Things are changing so rapidly that it's important to be nimble and quick and be able to have a plan in wet cement so that you can move things around and … figure it all out. For us, picking the right partners is the most important thing."

Miller reported from Los Angeles and Makinen from Beijing.