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iQIYI Picks Up ‘Mermaid’ Series From Stephen Chow, Shanghai New Culture Media for Record Fee

Chinese production company Shanghai New Culture Media has acquired TV adaptation rights to fantasy hit film “The Mermaid” and licensed them for a record fee to streaming platform iQIYI.

In a regulatory filing, the company said that it had pre-sold rights to the series to iQIYI for $60.8 million (RMB420 million).

The Mermaid,” an aquatic fantasy drama with themes of environmentalism and China’s nouveau riche, is the country’s highest-grossing film of all time. Released Feb. 8, 2016, it earned RMB3.39 billion in theaters. That total was previously reported as $526 million, but is worth about $491 million at current exchange rates.

Shanghai New Culture Media has multiple connections with the film’s Hong Kong director, Stephen Chow. It was one of the investor-producers in “The Mermaid” and this year paid $195 million for a 51% stake in Premium Data Associates, a company founded by Chow. It is unclear what role the director will take on the series. Chinese media have reported that he will script and produce.

In a separate filing, Shanghai New Culture Media said that it had also licensed a series based on the Chow-produced “Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back,” which was a $250 million hit during the Chinese New Year period earlier this year.

China’s top online video companies have ramped up spending on exclusive and original content as a means to attract viewers and increase revenue from monthly paid subscriptions rather than advertising.

iQIYI recently renewed its Project 17, under which it supports new directors. The scheme was launched two years ago and was partially responsible for Golden Horse Film Award-winner “The Summer Is Gone.” It revealed three new titles: “My Town,” “Blue Chrysophoron,” and “The Good Winds” (aka “Daogao Yizhang”).

In a further shift into production, it announced three other schemes: the “Dolphin” project, aimed at sourcing blockbusters; the “Tiger” project, aimed at helping producers, directors, and screenwriters find funding; and the “Swan” project, intended to discover new performing talent.

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