It pacts with Korea's CJ to expand its reach

Chinese independent production and distribution group PolyBona is cranking up its operations with a strategic investment partnership with Korea’s CJ Entertainment to co-invest and co-produce at least two films a year in China.

PolyBona prexy Yu Dong said in an interview with Variety at the Shanghai Film Festival that the CJ strategic link-up was part of the group’s ambitious program of development.

“Our goal is not only to thrive in the Chinese market, but also to take Chinese films to a broader stage, to produce excellent films in the international arena,” Yu said.

“This link-up is very significant. By integrating our expertise and marketing resources, we can work on developing projects worth more than $30 million together. We will focus on action movies and romantic comedies. We want our products to be competitive in Europe and America.” There would also be a focus on 3D.

The tie-up is aimed at using CJ’s development resources in Hollywood, through its links with DreamWorks and 1492 Pictures, and CJ’s Japanese distrib T-Joy.

CJ will benefit from PolyBona’s strong position in the mainland Chinese market.

Yu expects the coming decade to be a golden one for the Chinese film business, and expects B.O. to rise to around 30 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) in the next five years while the number of screens would double from 5,000 to 10,000.

The Chinese box office topped $909 million last year, a rise of more than 40% on the previous year, and a record 450 films were made and screened on the mainland.

Yu said that PolyBona had enough cash to fund its expansion. In recent years, venture capital firms Sequoia, SIG and Matrix have invested in PolyBona, and the group has said in the past that it is seeking an overseas stock market listing.

This year the group plans to make 17 films, seven of them shooting currently, compared to 16 last year.

“In the next few years we will become the biggest private film group in China. Every year we will make more than 15 films and increase our share of the distribution market to 15% of the market,” Yu said. “We will also invest in more cinemas.”

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