China’s Hishow Entertainment has boarded a pair of upcoming movies from Nu Image/Millennium Films: “Hunter Killer” and “Escobar.” The deal is one of the biggest completed so far at the European Film Market, alongside the Berlin Film Festival, and also one of the biggest by a Chinese indie in recent months.
The Chinese distributor-investor has paid more than $10 million to buy into the two films. In both cases it is co-financing the movies and acquiring distribution rights for China. Nu Image/Millennium produces the “Expendables” series, which also has Chinese co-producers.
Directed by Donovan Marsh, “Hunter Killer” features Gerard Butler as an untested American captain who teams with Navy Seals for a mission to rescue the Russian president. Butler has significant name-recognition in China after the success there of “London Has Fallen.” Gary Oldman and Billy Bob Thornton also star in the action thriller, which was previously set up at Relativity but shifted after the company’s financial meltdown.
“Escobar,” starring Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Peter Sarsgaard, is a fact-based drama about a female journalist who strikes up a relationship with the notorious Colombian drug lord. Fernando Leon de Aranoa directs; Bardem shares the production credits.
The deal for both films was completed in Berlin with Hishow’s COO Xu Bin and Nu Image/Millennium’s Avi Lerner as signatories.
Hishow, based in Beijing, positions itself as an international film investor and co-producer, not simply a local distributor. It currently has “Ballerina” on release in China. It was involved with “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, another Western actor big in China, and 2015’s Franco-Chinese drama “Night Peacock” (“Le Paon de Nuit”). Directed by Dai Sijie and produced by Hishow’s Wang Haiyi, it starred China’s Crystal Liu, Hong Kong’s Leon Lai and France’s Emmanuel Gayet.