14 Dec Co-Pro Targets: Part 1 – The U.S. Majors
In this series of posts – I will list companies who you should target for your next co-production. I’ll begin with the U.S. majors. Below is a schedule of Co-Pro targets
Part 1. The U.S. Majors
Part 2. Major Chinese companies
Part 3 U.S. Independents
Part 4. Smaller Chinese companies
Part 5. U.S. Actors You Should Target
Part 6. Chinese Actors You Should NOT Target
Today I will talk about the US Major studios. For some writers, producers, directors – this list could be ‘aspirational’ but a great script with key attachments can break through any barrier.
Here is a graph from the MPA’s 2018 Research Report on the Chinese Film Industry:
I’ll mention the studio’s history in China, their Chinese partners and what makes them unique.
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox had a division called Fox International pictures. Back in 2013 FIP signed an Asian film co-financing deal for local language films with Ivanhoe Pictures. Then in June 2017, FIP announced it was to co-produce 10 online movies with China’s Tencent. Unfortunately, in December 2017, 20th Century Fox announced FIP was shutting down. They decided that local offices overseas would develop and acquire projects.
Luckily 20th Century Fox inked a deal with China’s major streaming platform – iQIYI. This deal covers VOD and subscription streaming for the studio’s theatrical releases.
Bottom Line: You’ll need to reach out to the studio’s local offices to get on their development/acquisition radar.
In 2015 Lionsgate made a production deal with Hunan TV (A Chinese TV broadcaster).
Bottom Line: Lionsgate is very approachable. In fact, the President of International Film and TV Distribution (Peter Iacono) was the first guest on my podcast.
In May 2017 Paramount announced it had a one billion dollar slate financing deal with Huahau Media and Shanghai Film Group.
Paramount also signed a deal with Jiaflix Enterprises and China Movie Channel to shoot part of Transformers 4: Dark of the Moon in China. However – about a month later, another article appeared Paramount Pictures Deal is Dead.
The article mentioned the crackdown on capital flight. HuaHua media at the time was being acquired by a government-affiliated group called Oriental Times for only $138 million USD. Hard to explain how Hauhau was going to invest half a billion in Paramount’s slate. As the author said – “Forget it Jake; it’s Chinatown.”
Bottom Line: With articles like Why ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Is the Most Successful Movie in Chinese History floating around the internet and announcements like Paramount Pictures and Hasbro Partner for Future Projects if you read the tea leaves – you can bet Paramount will be mining this ‘toys to movies’ model for the near future. I’m sure someone’s working on a Mr. Potato Head script right now.
In Sept 2016 in the article Sony Pictures and China’s Wanda Enter Film partnership Wanda announced plans to invest in Sony’s movies. However, since then Wanda has pulled out of many filmmaking endeavors and the capital flight controls forced them to rethink their expansion plans.
In 2016 Sony Pictures and iQIYI agreed to co-produce a Mandarin language version of the US TV series “Chosen”. This was a rare moment when a Hollywood studio would co-operate with a Chinese company to create a Chinese TV series.
Also in 2016, Sony launched a Chinese writer’s program where it invited a select group of Chinese writers to meet with Hollywood executives in the hopes of fostering collaboration.
Will China offer its own ‘Hollywood screenwriters meet Chinese executives’ initiative?
Bottom Line: Sony has proven to think outside the box with its bold moves such as creating a Chinese TV series and launching a Chinese writer’s program.
In 2015 Universal announced it was opening a Universal Studios theme park in Beijing. Universal opened an office in Hong Kong this summer. It’s had an office in Beijing since 2014.
In the 2016 article Here’s Why China Is So Important to Universal Pictures, chairman Donna Langley reiterated how they view Chinese companies as potential partners – not competitors. Additionally, with the money it made in China (over $300 million) with its The Fast and The Furious series – future projects at the initial green light will undoubtedly be structured to appeal to the Chinese market.
Perfect World who in announced in 2016 Was Raising $500 Million to Co-Finance films with Universal Pictures.
Bottom Line: Universal is keen to find the next franchise that appeals to China. Additionally, in the article Universal Pictures Aims for Big Part in China, Jeff Shell, Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment said animation is critical. Despicable Me 3 did over $150 million in China alone. My take – add fast cars or minions to your next script. Better yet, add Dwayne the Rock to your next project.
Disney has a long history with China. It released “Snow White” there in 1938. It opened Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 and Shanghai Disneyland in 2016. Disney (which owns Pixar) has had a string of successful animated hits in China – The Jungle Book, Zootopia as well as live action hits like Captain America: Civil War.
Alibaba – one of China’s largest internet companies, partnered with Walt Disney in 2018. The article Alibaba is helping Disney expand in China mentioned that “As part of the deal, Alibaba will distribute more than 1,000 animated films and cartoons on its Youku video streaming platform.”
Bottom Line: Disney is famous for its animation. Of course, Disney might consider researching their internet memes so no Disney characters are used as a symbol of resistance (a plump bear comes to mind) to China’s president to Xi Jinping.
Warner BrothersYears ago, Warner Brothers had a Chinese cinema joint venture. However, in 2005 the Chinese government changed regulations so that Chinese mainland investors would now own 51% or play a leading role in joint ventures. Warner cut its losses and pulled out of the market.
However, Warner Brothers is glad it returned. Its latest blockbuster, Aquaman is a massive hit in China. In only three days after its release, it crossed the $100 million box office threshold.
Additionally, Warner Brothers also partnered with the Chinese streaming giant iQIYI. The article Warner Bros Signs Streaming Deal with China’s iQiyi – said at the time the deal covered more than 200 films. In 2015 and Warner Brothers and China Media Capital (CMC) forged a joint venture – Flagship Entertainment Group to develop and produce a slate of Chinese–language films.
Bottom Line: Flushed with Aquaman’s success in China – Warner Brothers will be eager to extend its winning streak. China-themed projects will be the hot ticket.
Next up: Part 2: Major Chinese companies