Crack in the wall

U.S.-China pic confab aims to boost biz

The Chinese film business is “white-hot,” and interest from Hollywood in the booming market has never been keener, according to Peter Shiao, chairman of the second U.S.-China Film Summit, which takes place in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“Even skeptics have to admit the possibilities — it’s the most compelling space to be in. Where else do you find that kind of growth?” Shiao told Variety.

Last year’s summit provided a forum for people to talk and make deals.

“Until then lots had taken place at film festivals and outside of Hollywood, then we blew it wide open inside Hollywood,” said Shiao, who is founder and prexy of Orb Media. “It accomplished multiple things; I’m still hearing about people doing movies together. It influenced the way people see opportunity and educated people,” he said.

China is the last frontier for Hollywood, a vast untapped market that can be tough to access without knowledge of the local market and its regulations, plus an inside track to the government powers-that-be.

Recent months have seen a flurry of deals between Hollywood studios and Chinese orgs. L.A.- and Beijing-based DMG Entertainment announced a $300 million fund to bring co-produced tentpoles to China.

DMG chief exec Dan Mintz will be one of the panelists at the forum, as will Ryan Cavanaugh, CEO of Relativity Media, which set up a Chinese production and distribution partnership this year.

Other deals include Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment plan to invest $220.5 million making pics for the Chinese market via its Legendary East unit.

“The summit is moving the beyond the realm of sharing knowledge,” Shiao said. “There is a feeling that there is real capital, real platforms. The opportunities and interest have gone to the next level.

“I fully expect deals to come out of it. I’m in the middle of a few myself, and most of the speakers are very deeply involved. We have people doing real things — it’s a high-quality group of attendees.”

Last year, 67% of Hollywood studios’ revenue came from overseas, and China was a big part of that.

In 2010 China’s box office was up 64% at $1.53 billion, with $210 million from “Avatar,” while “Inception” made another $69 million.

The roughly 20 foreign pics that enter China each year make up nearly half of the revenues, with 500 or so domestic movies competing for the rest. And a big percentage of the B.O. for those domestic movies came from Hong Kong co-productions.

Last year more than 500 biz figures took part in the summit, and hundreds of industryites are expected at this year’s event, including business and corporate executives, producers and creative teams from U.S. and China.

The panels will include a Finance & Business Update, moderated by Steve Saltzman, a partner of Loeb & Loeb and featuring panelists including Mintz, Kavanaugh and Galloping Horse Film prexy Ivy Zhong.

Bridging the Creative Gap will be moderated by Bennett Pozil, senior managing director for capital markets, East West Bank. Panelists include “Transformers” and “X-Men” producer Tom DeSanto; Dayyan Eng, who recently directed Kevin Spacey in “Inseparable”; and Lava Bear Films topper David Linde.

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