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Hollywood landmark reels in China brand

By Liu Wei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-12 11:20

 Hollywood landmark reels in China brand

Robert De Niro has his hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The Chinese electronics company just won the naming rights of the landmark. China foto press

Chinese films may soon have their premieres on the world's busiest red carpet.

TCL, a major TV and mobile phone maker, has completed a 10-year deal with the owners of the Chinese Theatre, the historic Hollywood landmark that now hosts weekly premieres.

The theater, previously known as Mann's Chinese Theater, has been renamed TCL Chinese Theatre.

Q.C. Liang, assistant president of TCL, said the company will be entitled to use the venue free a certain number of days every year as part of the deal signed in January.

It is also working on a promotion that will be screened before every film released in the theater.

The company's name will not appear on the facade of the building, which was declared a historic and cultural landmark in 1968, but the company's logo will appear on the LED display in and outside the theater, and on the Walk of Fame where stars immortalize themselves by placing handprints in cement and where 4 million tourists visit every year.

TCL, short for The Creative Life, knows about Hollywood. Its products have been placed into blockbusters such as Transformers 3 and The Avengers, and will be featured in the upcoming Iron Man 3.

Liang hopes the naming deal, as well as the product placement, will help the company's brand image connect more to the young generation.

"We produce smart TV and mobile phones, for which young people are the main target customers," he said.

"The Chinese Theatre deal will definitely enhance the brand's global media exposure."

As part of its strategy in the United States, TCL will put more efforts into promoting its medium to high-end products in the region, he added.

Negotiations on the deal started around April, with TCL competing against several companies from the banking, insurance and airline industries, according to Annie Li, president of Reach Glory, the entertainment-marketing agency that represented TCL in the negotiations.

She said a major factor in the success of TCL's winning bid was the fact that was a Chinese company.

"China is the future as the second-largest film market in the world," she said. "Besides, the most important products of TCL, TV and mobile phones, are closely related to the theater and the film content it screens."

During negotiations, TCL rose to be the world's fourth-largest flat panel TV manufacturer from seventh, which Li thinks helps, too.

TCL will help revamp the 86-year-old theater, upgrading its sound system and projector, among other improvements.

"The milestone relationship between TCL and the Chinese Theatre will allow us to do many of the upgrades and the preservation projects we earmarked," Ellie Samaha and Don Kushner, the theater's owners, said in a statement.

The deal also won the endorsement of Hillsman Wright, co-founder of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, restoring and sustaining the operation of Southern California's historic theaters. At the launch ceremony of the new name in January, Wright made a speech to "support the new partnership and the improvements that will be outlined".

The theater will also become a venue for China-US cultural exchanges.

As part of the deal, TCL will promote Tinseltown and the theater. According to Ben Ji, marketing director of Reach Glory, the first step would be a presentation to Chinese filmmakers and businessmen at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June on how they may cooperate with the theater.

Liang did not reveal how much TCL has paid for the naming rights, simply calling the deal "reasonably priced". The Los Angeles Times reported that the company spent more than $5 million for the deal.

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