Deal give Chinese companies access to N. America

BEIJING — China’s top two privately owned shingles, Huayi Bros. and Bona Film Group, have signed up to buy stakes in the one-year-old start-up China Lion Film Distribution, which will give them access to the North American market.

Both Huayi and Bona will acquire up to 20% of China Lion each for an undisclosed sum. Former Village Roadshow and Dune Entertainment exec Greg Coote will chair the company.

“This is a major milestone for both Bona and China’s film industry, as it will allow overseas Chinese to watch Chinese movies without delays, as well as open modern Chinese movies to a broader North American audience, and thereby help promote Chinese culture. I believe this is a strong win-win partnership,” Bona topper Dong Yu said in a statement.

Wang Zhonglei, prexy of Huayi, said China Lion had broken important ground in reaching North American auds in the past year.

“We believe their management team will continue to build Chinese distribution in the important North America marketplace supported by strong partnerships such as AMC. We look forward to not only assisting the company with those endeavors in North America, but being a valued conduit in production and distribution in China and throughout Asia,” he said.

China Lion CEO Milt Barlow said the deal would “provide China Lion with vertical integration in distribution and production both within and outside China.”

China Lion, which is headquartered in L.A. and has offices in Toronto, Sydney, Beijing and Auckland, became the first distributor to release major Chinese theatrical features day-and-date with China as part of a deal with U.S. cinema chain AMC.

As well as North America, China Lion distributes in Australia and New Zealand, and has just commenced distribution in the U.K. Org is also looking to co-produce a number of major features over the next year.

During its first year it has released 12 pics, including tentpoles by Feng Xiaogang — “Aftershock” and “If You Are the One 2,” “What Women Want” and the propaganda epic “The Beginning of the Great Revival.”

It has also joined forces with Fox International Productions in handling the release of FIP co-productions “The Butcher, the Chef & the Swordsman” and “Love in Space.”

Deal was announced at a cocktail party in L.A. attended by Gang Tong, director of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television’s State Film Bureau.

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