China’s Huayi Bros. Signs 18-Movie Deal With Secret U.S. Company

In the latest major East-West movie production and financing development, China’s Huayi Bros. Media has reached an 18-picture, three-year deal with an unidentified U.S. company.

The deal was announced as a regulatory filing in China without naming the U.S. party to the deal.

Huayi sources said that the move is subject to a system of internal shareholder approvals and that might mean it will be a further two weeks before the company officially names its U.S. partner.

With the deal put together through its wholly owned US subsidiary, Huayi will help fund, produce and distribute 18 feature films through 2017. The U.S. unit was established last September with start-up capital of $130 million.

According to the regulatory note, Huayi will also retain distribution rights in Greater China including Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan and Singapore.

Huayi said it will draw three financial benefits from the partnership: distribution fees; a direct share of global revenues; and profits in proportion to its equity positions in the movies.

“This is not only a step for Huayi Bros.’ internationalization, but also the internationalization of all Chinese film companies,” the company said.

Huayi already has a international sales arrangement with IM Global, but the Stuart Ford-headed company is understood not to be the partner. Nor, according to sources close to Huayi, are any of the six major Hollywood or Legendary Entertainment, which has its own Chinese production unit Legendary East.

This week is expected to see the formalization of another major China-Hollywood tie-up, when Lionsgate signs a pact with Hunan TV to provide a quarter of Lionsgate’s film production costs over the next three years, valuing Hunan’s contribution at up to $375 million.

Huayi is China’s largest private sector film company and was previously involved in Jackie Chan and Jet Li-starring China-U.S. co-venture “The Forbidden Kingdom” with Casey Silver Productions and Relativity Media. In what is now an earlier era for Chinese filmmaking, Huayi was previously partner with Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia on Chinese titles including He Ping’s “Warriors of Heaven and Earth” and Lu Chuan’s “Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.”

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