Hollywood’s Legendary Entert. creates HK subsidiary and partners with China’s Huayi Bros for co-production

9 June 2011 11 h 19 min 13 comments

The leading Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp and the production house behind hits like “The Dark Knight,” ”Inception” and the two “Hangover” films has just announced their new partnership, according to Legendary Entertainment’s statement on Thursday 9 June.

Legendary Entertainment has also announced the formation of Legendary East Ltd., a standalone entertainment company  dedicated to creating feature film and related content for a worldwide audience. The new offshoot will be based in Hong Kong  and will feature Chinese management and international investors with a focus on the global market. According to the statement, “Legendary East is the vision of Legendary Entertainment’s Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, who along with Chinese born Hong Kong media and finance entrepreneur Kelvin Wu, created the venture. Legendary East’s local co-production and distribution partner is its strategic shareholder – Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, a leading Chinese film conglomerate.”

“Legendary East’s films are anticipated to be developed and produced as co-productions with Huayi Brothers, who will distribute the movies in China, while distribution in all other parts of the globe is anticipated to be handled by Warner Bros. Pictures, with whom Legendary Entertainment has a long-standing relationship. Legendary East initially plans on producing one to two major, event style films for worldwide audiences annually beginning in 2013.”

“China is one of the most important economic and culturally significant areas in the world, and we are deeply honored to establish a base in this region to create entertainment that is globally appealing in quality, scale and impact,” commented Mr. Tull. “Legendary Entertainment is committed to building a long-term presence in China and the surrounding region by becoming part of both the rapidly growing world-class filmmaking community and its media and business economy. Our newly announced production and distribution partnership with Huayi Brothers in China, coupled with Legendary East’s management team lead by Kelvin Wu, positions us well in our pursuit of these goals.”

“As the rapid growth of the Chinese film market has attracted more and more attention and participation from filmmakers around the world, Huayi Brothers is very fortunate to be an active participant in this global trend and to witness China becoming the 2nd largest market for film by 2012. Even though in 2010, Huayi Brothers alone contributed 30% of the domestic Chinese film B.O. in China (17% of the overall domestic B.O.), we have never stopped exploring any possibility that can enhance us to break into the global market,” commented Mr. Zhonglei, President. “I am glad that I have found Legendary, the leading film creator and trend setter, to be my comrade. We sincerely value this partnership and believe that this collaboration will not only produce countless fantastic films for our global audience; but simultaneously will allow the world to see China from a whole new perspective.”

According to Legendary, “Legendary East will be led by an experienced management team with significant experience working with Hollywood studios as well as with Western and Chinese entertainment companies. The Legendary East senior executive team will be comprised of Thomas Tull, Executive Chairman; Kelvin Wu, Chief Executive Officer; and Joel Chang, Chief Financial Officer.”

HK as a gate to China

“Hong Kong was said to be the Hollywood of the East and has emerged as one of the most important international financial centers today. Thanks to the rapid growth of the Chinese film market, Hong Kong has been regaining its momentum to become eminent in film production. With the support from Legendary Entertainment, we are excited to be a part of Legendary East and be in the forefront of bridging the creative with finance, and the East with the West,” said Mr. Wu.

Legendary did not disclose financial details, including anticipated budgets for the films and TV shows it expects to make.

The partnership should Legendary Entertainment to develop its presence and revenues in the growing Chinese film and TV market. Through this coproduction deal, the new films may bypass Chinese import restrictions that effectively limit the country to about 20 foreign blockbusters a year.

Second Chinese deal for legendary

The deal comes after Legendary Entertainment sold a 3.3 percent stake to Chinese studio Orange Sky Golden Harvest in September for $25 million. Orange Sky is the product of Chinese businessman Wu Kebo’s 2007 takeover of storied Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest, the historic studio of Chinese megastars Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and John Woo. The Beijing-based Orange Sky, which runs multiplexes in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, recently invested in Woo’s two-part historical epic “Red Cliff” and the action thriller “Storm Warriors.” Orange Sky Chief Executive Kelvin Wu will serve as chief executive of Legendary East.

The Beijing-based Huayi Brothers is one of the 3 top Chinese studios and the first private one. Its films accounted for 17 percent of the Chinese box office in 2010. Its production catalogue includes the hit Feng Xiaogang “Aftershock,” and the kung fu drama “Shaolin”.

Legendary Entertainment, and its partners Warner Bros, hope to get more share of the growing Chinese film cake. Chinese box office takings surged 64 percent to $1.5 billion in 2010, including $204 million for the James Cameron 3D Avatar, the biggest hit in mainland.

SOURCES: Legendary Entertainement, NY Times, AP (9/06/2011)

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