China Strengthens Ties with Hollywood

Huayi Brothers backs Brad Pitt-starrer 'Fury'

SHANGHAI — Most of the buzz at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival has been about increased cooperation between Hollywood and China.

Among the busiest Chinese private shingles in this respect has been Huayi Brothers, which unveiled its slate for the remainder of this year and next year, including the Brad Pitt-starring WW2 drama, “Fury.” Huayi Brothers will co-produce “Fury” with QED.

“Firstly we are going to cooperate with more and more directors, and those directors will bring us more imagination and new genres. Secondly it will help those directors have a better idea of the Chinese market. We will provide them with ideas to produce specialized films for the audience,” Wang Zhonglei, Huayi Brothers co-founder and prexy, said in an interview with Variety.

Earlier in the fest, Huayi unveiled two projects with Jackie Chan: “Manhattan,” which will be set in Gotham, and “Wolf Flag,” set in the desert. Both are skedded for release next year.

A big factor in Huayi’s success has been the influence on its bottom line of China’s most bankable helmer, Feng Xiaogang. He made his mark with hugely popular comedies like “Cellphone,” but in recent years has concentrated on more serious subjects.

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His latest movie, “Personal Tailor,” is a laffer and is due to bow in December.

The slate features movies by local favorite Gu Changwei, Taiwanese Doze Niu, and Hong Kong helmers Mabel Cheung and Alex Law.

Wang spoke of how the Chinese market had its own characteristics, which meant that a certain flexibility was necessary.

“The Chinese market is different. The screening market and moviegoers are yet to be developed. Long term the market will be boosted. But there will be changes to content,” said Wang.

“There is plenty of money in this market for different projects,” he said.

He said that the audiences were growing particularly strongly in the second and third-tier cities outside of Beijing and Shanghai, and that audiences in these smaller cities were looking for a different kind of film.

They particularly liked domestic movies, and favored blockbusters when choosing overseas movies.

“This could allow us to strike a balance in the Chinese film market,” said Wang.

“Also, the format of films are undergoing major changes, using the Internet rather than traditional media,” he said.

Elsewhere, the fourth instalment of the “Transformers” franchise is taking on a strong Chinese flavor, with Li Bingbing set to appear in the pic, and other Chinese thesps will be in the movie, chosen by reality TV show.

The producers announced their first Chinese commercial sponsors at an event in the Shanghai Film Museum at the fest. Beijing Pangu Investment has signed up with the pic’s co-producers Paramount and Jiaflix to use prominent architecture from the Chinese capital in the movie, including Pangu’s Plaza Hotel and the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium.

Chinese shingles China Film Group and Pegasus & Taihe Entertainment said they would invest $20 million in South Korea’s CJ Entertainment sci-fi movie, “The Fist,” which marks around 30% of the total budget.

It’s the largest investment ever from China in a Korean movie, and comes as the two Asian nations said they would start working on a co-production agreement.

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