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Chinese funding fuels world cinema

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-03 09:14

Chinese funding fuels world cinema

A wall painting promoting the film Warcraft is on display outside a cinema in Luoyang, Henan province, in June. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Cash-rich Chinese investors are increasingly visible on the international screen.

When a slew of familiar Chinese logos were flashed before the film Warcraft, a burst of awkward laughter broke out in Chinese cinemas, as if asking, "Is this a Hollywood movie or a Chinese one?" Even discounting that Chinese conglomerate Wanda acquired Legendary Pictures long after the Hollywood studio decided to turn the game into a movie, Chinese film studios Huayi Brothers and Tencent Pictures had been involved.

The movie ended up raking in 1.48 billion yuan ($224 million) in China, far more than the $47.2 million it made in the United States.

The Great Wall, with an international cast and both Chinese and English as the main languages, looks and feels like a typical coproduction. It was produced by China-based Legendary East, a subsidiary of Legendary Pictures. Powerhouses from the US and China, including Universal Pictures and China Film Group, are behind its distribution in their respective markets. The action-adventure monster film crossed the 1 billion yuan mark on New Year's Day, but has yet to open in other major markets, where its performance may test the viability of Chinese content that accompanies Chinese capital.

The haste to invest in international projects has also resulted in disputes. Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, about a World War II conscientious objector, won huge critical acclaim in China and its box-office tally has climbed stubbornly against strong competitors. However, an off-screen battle has flared between two Chinese companies. According to IMDb.com, Bliss Media and Kylin Pictures, both Chinese companies, are listed as the film's production companies, with Bliss as its Chinese distributor and Kylin its Chinese funding company. Now the two companies are involved in a prolonged scuffle over who owns what stake in the English-language movie.

In other news, Huahua Media, a Chinese investor, got behind Hollywood movies including Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Star Trek Beyond, Allied and the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight. Previous Transformers movies also had Chinese involvement in the form of product placement and local casting and promotion.

Alibaba Pictures threw its weight behind several Hollywood projects, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Beyond, Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation and the upcoming Warriors.

Wholesale investments in Hollywood companies include Xinke New Materials, a Chinese metals firm, acquiring 80 percent of the parent company of Voltage Pictures; Alibaba Pictures taking a stake in Stephen Spielberg's Amblin Partners; Tang Media's purchase of a majority stake in IM Global, Wanda's $1 billion investment in Dick Clark Productions and, the biggest yet, Wanda's $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary Entertainment.

As Chinese financiers and movie studios test Hollywood waters, it is highly anticipated that a Chinese acquisition of one of the six major Hollywood studios will materialize, or a Chinese-led international film, more than the Asian-fusion style of The Great Wall, will conquer the world market.

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