China's Huace Buys Stake 'Tiny Times'
Patrick Frater

Five-year deal centers on youth drama icon Guo Jingming

SHANGHAI — Leading Chinese TV production group Huace Film & TV is to dramatically ramp up its feature film activities through a strategic alliance with Guo Jingming, celebrity internet novelist and director of the this year’s two hit “Tiny Times” movies.

Huace is paying $29.5 million (RMB180 million) to acquire a 26% stake in Guo’s four year old company Shanghai Zui Culture Development and signed a five year deal to develop and produce film and TV series with Guo (pictured, right).

Guo has a huge youth fan base and was able to leverage that online following to make hits out of his feature debuts – a third ‘Tiny Times” also begins production this month – and Huace says its backing for him represents a shift of power from film-makers to audiences.

“A shift of the focus from creators to audiences is a vital characteristic of the ‘new generation’,” said Zhao Yifang (pictured left), Huace general manager, at a launch event Sunday, held at the Shanghai Film Museum.

Under the terms of the five year deal Huace and Zui will jointly produce five feature movies based on Guo and Zui properties. Guo will in future assign rights to all his film, TV series and internet dramas to Zui and Huace will have priority investment position in the content. Zui has over 100 graphic artists, novelists and screenwriters under its wings.

There was no lack of ego on display at the event — Guo was repeatedly described as a “genius” and one slide pictured him above the slogan “I am Zui” (‘Zui’ translates into English as ‘ultimate’), while other speakers spoke of the Chinese box office being double that of the U.S. inside the next ten years. But Zhao denied that Huace would compete with the leading Chinese companies Huayi Brothers, Bona Film and China Film Group, instead emphasizing a new generation of films that is conceived as multimedia content and emerges from ‘big data’ market analysis and proven audience demand.

Describing Guo as the “first star of hope” in the Chinese movie industry, Huace’s executive vice general manager Jin Qian said: “we will not confine our cooperation with Guo Jingming to movies. We have made plans for a trilogy of movies and TV dramas. We will establish the Zui Script Origination Center, the Zui Pan-media communication plan and a ‘new director 2+2 development’ plan.”

Questioned by Variety, Zhao gave no indication of the scale of production investment needed for the slate, instead saying that it would be “appropriate to the genres of films decided on, whether they are sci-fi, fantasy or drama.” She

Huace revealed that not only is “Tiny Times III” going ahead, but that fourth installment is already being planned. It said that Guo will additionally direct a youth fantasy epic movie based on his earlier series “The City of Fantasy.” Huace was not an backer of the first two episodes of “Tiny Times,” but Zhao said that Huace will be an investor, alongside other returning financiers.

Established in 2005 in Hangzhou, Huace Film & TV has become a market leader in the production of long running TV series business. Its output includes swordsman dramas and idol dramas “Dragon Oath,” “Shining Love,” “New Roselle,” “One-Carat Dream” and “Noodles of Happiness” and award winning dramas including “State Fortune.”

Released only five weeks apart in summer this year, the first two “Tiny Times” aspirational youth dramas together grossed $128 million (RMB779 million) at the Chinese box office. The third installment is tentatively scheduled for a release in summer 2014.

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