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World & Nation

Warner Bros. inks joint-venture deal for Chinese-language films

Deal struck

Warner Bros. has signed a deal to form a joint venture to produce films for the Chinese market.

 

(Amy T. Zielinski / Getty Images)

Warner Bros. has inked a joint-venture deal with China Media Capital to co-produce a slate of Chinese-language films, the companies said Sunday.

The announcement of the joint venture, to be called Flagship Entertainment Group Ltd., comes just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the United States this week. Flagship will be 49% owned by Warner Bros., while CMC will hold 51% (Hong Kong broadcaster TVB will hold 10% of the Chinese stake).

The company will have offices in L.A., Beijing and Hong Kong, and plans to “develop, invest in, acquire and produce a wide range of films for distribution throughout China and around the world,” the companies said in a statement.

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The companies did not say how many films they aim to make per year, nor what the maximum budgets of those movies might be, but the first title to be released under the Flagship brand could arrive in theaters as soon as next year, they said. Global tentpoles are part of the new joint venture’s aim, they added.

“We look forward to working with CMC in this exciting new venture, as we gain additional insight into the Chinese film industry,” said Warner Bros. Chairman and Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara. “Warner Bros. has a proud legacy of making great movies, and we’re excited to share that expertise with our colleagues in China. The country’s incredibly rich history and culture provide a huge trove of great stories, and we want to help tell those stories for new generations of filmgoers, in China and around the world.”

Li Ruigang, founding chairman of CMC, said: “This partnership with Hollywood’s most iconic studio will bring Warner Bros.’ deep experience in creative storytelling and unparalleled expertise in producing global titles to China’s film industry. It will also further CMC’s commitment to building a premier platform for making films that resonate with both Chinese and worldwide audiences, helping to enhance the cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world.”

CMC is no stranger to Hollywood partnerships, having teamed up with Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation to form the animation studio Oriental DreamWorks in 2012. The Shanghai-based entity will soon release its first film, “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which it has been making in conjunction with Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation.

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Introducing Chinese culture and traditions to a more global audience is a key goal for Xi’s administration as Chinese authorities aim to develop more “soft power.”

China’s box office has been growing by leaps and bounds; this year’s receipts are up nearly 50% over 2014 year-to-date. The mainland is now the world’s second-largest film market after North America.

China Media Capital, a state-backed investment fund, is a major player in Chinese entertainment and media; its businesses cover not just film and TV but also music, online content, advertising and a smart TV system.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China


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