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BBC, China’s SMG to Co-Produce ‘Earth,’ Release ‘Sherlock’ in Chinese Theaters

LONDON — U.K. broadcaster the BBC and China’s Shanghai Media Group have signed a landmark deal that will see them work together on two of the BBC’s highest-profile franchises, “Earth” and “Sherlock.”

BBC Earth Films and SMG Pictures, the film and television production arm of Shanghai Media Group, will co-produce feature film “Earth: One Amazing Day.” The film is the sequel to “Earth,” which was a box office hit in several major territories, including the U.S., Japan, and Germany, and grossed $92 million worldwide. SMG Pictures will distribute the film in China. It will be the first feature film to be produced under the U.K. and China film co-production treaty, which was signed in March (read more here).

The film will be directed by British filmmaker Peter Webber (“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “Hannibal Rising”), together with a Chinese director still to be announced. It will tell the story of one day in the life of the planet, looking at real-life dramas that occur in the natural world. The film is slated for theatrical release in 2017, a decade after the release of “Earth.”

The deal will be signed at a ceremony in London with Wang Jianjun, director-general and president, representing SMG, and Paul Dempsey, president, global markets, representing BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm.

The signing ceremony will take place at an event being held at Lancaster House in London on Wednesday that aims to showcase British creativity. It forms part of the official Chinese state visit to the U.K. by China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Amongst the guests attending the event will be Sue Vertue, board director of Hartswood Films and series producer of “Sherlock.” Vertue will attend to celebrate the second BBC announcement, that “Sherlock” is expected to be shown in movie theaters in China. Pending regulatory approval, the new “Sherlock” Special will be released in Chinese theaters as part of a global cinema event. Since first launching in China in 2010 the series has developed a major following, with over 98 million views in China of the last season alone.

The “Sherlock” Special will see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson in a one-off episode set in Victorian London in 1895. The episode has been co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and will also see series regulars Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Louise Brealey and Amanda Abbington join the cast. It is directed by Douglas Mackinnon (“Doctor Who,” “Line of Duty”). “Sherlock” is produced by Hartswood Films for the BBC and co-produced by Masterpiece in the U.S.

Tim Davie, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: “Today’s announcements herald an exciting new collaboration between the Chinese and British creative industries. There is a keen appetite in China for premium British content, and creating two new cinematic experiences in partnership with SMG Pictures is a landmark moment for two of our biggest brands, ‘Sherlock’ and ‘BBC Earth’.”

Wang, director-general and president of SMG, said: “I am delighted that SMG Pictures will be the co-producer of the first feature film to be produced under the landmark U.K. and China film co-production treaty. This milestone event will act as a bridge between Sino-U.K. cultural exchanges and set up a new model for Sino-U.K. collaboration.”

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