It aims to shoot co-prods, adopt U.S. biz practices

SHANGHAI — The Bona Film Group, China’s largest privately held shingle, will take on the challenge of increased competition from Hollywood by shooting two high-profile co-productions a year for international distribution and by adopting U.S. business practices.

“We hope we can build up our co-production access to Hollywood since we are the only film company in China that meets U.S. legal and regulatory requirements,” topper Yu Dong said in an interview with Variety on the fringes of the Shanghai Film Festival.

In April Yu upped his stake in the company and hired a firm to make Bona more attractive to investors.

Last month, News Corp. bought a 20% stake in Bona, but the deal didn’t include a production agreement with Fox.

However, Yu said Bona was in talks with a number of Hollywood shingles, including Universal, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Paramount.

Yu believes the biggest challenge for Chinese companies is how to face the increased quota of foreign films coming into the country, which was raised from 20 to 34 earlier in the year.

“The challenge is to make domestic movies stronger by absorbing techniques from American movies like 3D and Imax,” Yu said. “But first of all, we need good Chinese movies that satisfy the demands of the local market where we have the advantage.”

Yu said the News Corp. deal would give Bona access to global financing and also help attract talent to China.

“We can use this international financial resource to make films that are not only for China but also for the world,” he said.

“In the next five years, the Chinese film market will be worth 35 billion yuan ($5.5 billion), and we intend to have a big stake in that. We are aiming to be China’s most internationally focused film company,” said Yu.

The group is planning to invest in a 3D film technology center in Tianjin with Hong Kong helmer Tsui Hark and will make two 3D movies this year: “Tracks in the Snowy Forest,” a 1940s gangster tale, which Tsui will direct, and “The White-Hair Witch,” helmed by Jacob Cheung and produced by Tsui and Huang Jianxin.

Bona was among backers of Tsui’s 3D actioner “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” which has taken nearly $80 million at the B.O. since its December release.

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