Producer Bruno Wu, in Cannes briefly to announce an English-language remake of John Woo’s 1989 “The Killer,” said that within the next decade every film made in Hollywood will be factoring in its potential appeal to East Asian audiences.
“Hollywood will still be dominant, the hub of creation on a global basis,” he predicted, but Asian tastes will be increasingly influential as China B.O. is poised to match or surpass U.S. box office by 2021. In 2011, Chinese B.O. hit just north of $2 billion, while U.S. box office totaled just above $10 billion in 2011 but industry experts expect the Chinese total to hit $3 billion this year.
John H. Lee will helm the new “The Killer,” from Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Prods., penned by Josh Campbell and co-starring Sarah Yan Li (who’s repped by CAA). With a $30 million budget, it’s expected to start shooting in the fourth quarter in Toronto. Wu’s Seven Stars will finance the pic, with company CEO Fred Milstein closing the deal just prior to the festival.
Wu enthused about his new Chinawood, a $1.27 billion film and media hub. Project is aimed at luring U.S. and other foreign productions and will provide a hub for co-productions, which are exempt from Chinese import quotas.
Wu stressed though that it’s not a production facility, “but an eco-system to make co-productions work,” filling a need because Chinese co-productions are not the same as in many other countries.
The Chinawood facility in Tianjin has 500,000 sq. ft. of office space, with his Seven Stars taking more than one-fifth of that area. The goal is to build two or three more in different locations.
He said Chinawood has a four-pronged goal: to put together financing; offer production services (crew, creative input, facilitate government approvals and hiring bilingual talent); distribution (theaters, but also via pay TV, free TV and the Internet); and marketing.
Marketing, he said, is a “black hole” in China and it’s not clear how big P&A costs are.
China Film Group, currently the leader in some of these services, is a potential partner. “So there will be competition as well as cooperation.”
His Seven Stars expects to have lined up $700 million just for content financing by the end of the year, reminding that the company wants to invest in something that will sell well globally as well as in China.
“Our group’s focus is to participate in global content, shot in the English language, but with Chinese elements,” such as setting, plot and/or characters. His goal is to provide 20-25 films a year, with two or three that his company will take the lead on financing and another 10-12 that are tentpoles. “I’m a firm believer in studio product.” They will also acquire films that have been completed or are nearing completion.
As for a much-feared concern with Chinese co-productions, he said, “Censorship is much looser than you think it is. If it has a passing morality standard in the United States, it has a very good chance of passing morality standards in China.”
Seven Stars Entertainment is also developing a Net-based PPV/premium channel platform, is looking to acquire libraries, and is looking to get into mixed-martial-arts works.
He gets thousands of requests for co-financing deals. “I’m a nice guy, but it has put me in a very difficult situation,” reading too many scripts and financial proposals.
What: Producer Wu talks about China’s clout in global biz.
The takeaway: Wu backs “Killer,” talks up his new Chinawood hub and co-prods.