Bona Film Seeks Top Billing in China With Hollywood’s Aid

5 July 2013 8 h 03 min Comments Off


(Bloomberg, Jul 04, 2013) Bona Film Group Ltd. (BONA) founder Yu Dong is trying to build China’s largest private filmmaker into a global player, and to get there he’s calling on one of Hollywood’s tried-and-true plots: A great train robbery.

“Moscow Mission,” about a series of robberies on a line linking Beijing to Moscow, is one of four Chinese-language movies Yu is developing with 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) The project joins an American screenwriter with a Chinese director and actors. A Chinese writer will probably be called in, too. He’s working on a fifth film with Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures.

Yu is tapping Hollywood expertise as Beijing-based Bona seeks to exploit soaring demand for home-grown films. Ticket sales in China rose 27 percent to 10.3 billionyuan ($1.68 billion) in the first half of 2013, led by local productions, the China Daily reported this week. Ernst & Young predicts the country, with box-office sales growing about 30 percent a year, will pass the U.S. as the biggest market by 2020.

“If Bona is able to control 7 to 10 percent of the market going forward, we’re in position to become one of the biggest film companies in the world,” Yu said in an interview through a translator. “Given the really rapid growth, this is the market we want to focus on.”

Bona owns theaters and a talent agency, along with production and distribution. Yu sold a 20 percent stake to News Corp. last year, before Chairman Rupert Murdochsplit that company into separate entertainment and publishing businesses.

Local Profits

Yu competes with companies including the government-backed China Film Group, the country’s largest producer and distributor, and Huayi Brothers Media Corp. (300027), which is independent. Bona and Huayi must navigate an official censorship board and government controls over distribution. Like its competitors, Bona also distributes Hollywood films.

Bona and Fox say that over the long run, lower-cost Chinese-language movies will yield a higher return than foreign blockbusters.

Tallies for the first half of 2013 support the premise. Box-office sales for domestic films more than doubled during the first half of this year, accounting for 63 percent of ticket sales, China Daily reported on July 2.

Chinese films account for four of the top five releases this year, according to EntGroup, a Beijing-based researcher. Huayi Brothers’ “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” was the top-grossing movie with sales of $199.8 million.Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s “Iron Man 3” was second with $121.3 million.


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