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Chinese Partners Play With Fourth ‘Transformers’

Par brokers co-operation agreement with China Movie Channel and Jiaflix for pic

The “Transformers” film franchise has found a few friends in China to get the fourth installment made.

Just don’t call it a co-production.

Paramount Pictures has brokered what it calls a “co-operation agreement” with state-backed broadcaster CCTV’s China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises to produce “Transformers 4,” which Michael Bay is returning to helm.

CCTV comes under the umbrella of the powerful State Administration of Radio Film and Television.

Deal essentially means that China’s version of the BBC and Netflix will help produce and market the film in the country, helping secure filming locations, cast local talent, and manage post-production and theatrical promotions there. Studio can file for official co-production status, granted by the Chinese government, at a later time.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but third pic was produced for around $200 million. Relationship with China Movie Channel and Jiaflix does include an undisclosed investment in the production of “Transformers 4,” with both companies also expected to receive a percentage of the box office results after its release.

Project is the first time that China Movie Channel, also known as CCTV-6, has worked on the production of a film with a western studio, the company said.

Launched in 1995, China Movie Channel is the country’s only national movie channel and biggest movie broadcaster reaching close to 1 billion people. It owns the domestic telecast rights to more than 95% of all Chinese movies ever made, and over 80% of all international syndication rights for Chinese films.

The “Transformers” franchise has played well in the country, with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” earning more than $165 million there, in 2011.

“We see this relationship as a reflection of the global power and appeal of both this unique franchise and Michael Bay’s talents as a filmmaker,” said Paramount vice chair Rob Moore.

The partnership with Chinese companies now makes the fourth film a locally produced production, which will help get it into more theaters when it bows sometime around June 27, 2014, in the country.

“This is the beginning of a new era of collaboration with the Hollywood studios,” said Yan Xiaoming, chairman of China Movie Channel. “We are very confident that the China Movie Channel/Jiaflix co-operation with Paramount will result in the famous ‘Transformers’ brand being an even bigger success.”

Hollywood has stepped up its efforts to land such partnerships as a way to circumvent China’s quota system that limits the number of foreign films that can play in its theaters, and studios are flipping through their Rolodexes to call up anyone they know in the territory to open doors.

In Paramount’s case, that meant Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, who now serves as chairman of Jiaflix, which helps export Chinese films to oversees territories and manages the production of films in China.

Company already had a relationship with Paramount, with the studio being the first to supply more than 250 films a year to a new video streaming partnership between Jiaflix and M1905.com — also known as China Movie Web — a unit of China Movie Channel. Jiaflix partners Marc Ganis and Kenneth Huang were also instrumental in the “Transformers 4” deal.

“China Movie Channel and our official movie web site M1905.com have been long-term trusted partners with Jiaflix,” Xiaoming said. “We have been working together in the field of importing Hollywood movies for Chinese television and Internet, including Paramount movies, as well as introducing Chinese movies to the North American market and are very delighted with the results we have accomplished together.”

Based on the Hasbro toys, “Transformers 4” will star Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor.

Its Chinese deal follows last month’s announcement from Disney that it would release a version of Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 3” cut specifically for moviegoers there. It will also feature additional footage shot in Beijing and more of the local actors cast for the film, produced with Beijing-based DMG Entertainment.

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