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China’s Alibaba to Finance Wong Kar Wai Movie Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

IPO-bound Chinese e-commerce giant also attaches top directors Peter Chan and Internet-sensation Giddens Ko

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has struck a deal to be involved with the upcoming films of top auteur Wong Kar Wai.

The company revealed the deal in a regulatory filing by Chinavision, the Hong Kong stock market listed company that is soon to be renamed Alibaba Pictures Group.

“The Group has entered into several motion pictures development cooperation agreements with leading movie producers and directors, including cooperations with (i) Block 2 Films Limited and Mr. Wong Kar Wai (王家衛), a highly acclaimed and nationally renowned director, producer and script writer,” the Chinavision statement said.

Block 2 is a Hong Kong-based film production investment company that has been involved in several of Wong’s movies including “In the Mood for Love,” and “My Blueberry Nights” as well as others produced by Wong’s main company Jettone, including Taiwanese pictures “Miao Miao,” and “Touch of the Light.”

A spokesman for Wong confirmed the Alibaba deal and told Variety that details would be announced at a future event.

Chinavision, however, also suffered a setback. The company warned that it would lose between HK$97 million (US$12.5 million) and $23.3 million in the six months to end of June, compared with profits of $17.9 million in the same period last year. Revenue has dropped by some 70%, compared to a period when Chinavision was a minority investor in Stephen Chow’s record breaking “Journey to the West: Conquering The Demons.”

The Alibaba parent group is preparing for one of the most significant IPOs anywhere in the world this year. In a filing to U.S. market regulators last week Alibaba valued itself at $130 billion.

Chinavision said that its results also reflect the postponement of other strategic decisions relating to Alibaba’s takeover of the company. That acquisition of 60% of Chinavision’s stock through Alibaba offshoot Ali CV Investment Holding, has now been completed.

Chinavision recently announced the resignation of well-known producer Dong Ping as its CEO and the appointment of Alibaba executives Shao Xiaofeng as chairman and Liu Chunning as acting CEO. However the company has not confirmed recent reports that former number two executive at China Film Group Zhang Qiang will make the unusual leap from state owned enterprise to private sector giant take over as CEO from August.

Chinavision said Alibaba ownership will transform it from humble production company to part of a budding entertainment colossus.

“Given the strengthened financial position and relationship with Alibaba Group, the (Chinavision) board is of the view that the group is now better positioned strategically to broaden the scope of its content production and to capitalise, through the Alibaba Group’s ecosystem, on new opportunities related to online entertainment and other media-related areas in addition to its core competence in film production and distribution. By leveraging the ‘Alibaba’ brand and relationship with Alibaba Group, the (Chinavision) Group will be also able to further strengthen its cooperation with renowned producers, directors and artists in the content production industry,” it said as a followup to the loss warning.

The latest Chinavision filing also confirmed production finance deals with other high-profile filmmakers; Peter Chan Ho-sun’s We Pictures company, and Giddens Ko, the Taiwanese novelist who became a hit film-maker with his sophomore directorial effort “You Are the Apple of My Eye.”

Chinavision has a seven-year option with Hong Kong-based We Pictures to invest in the production of up to five movies in which Chan, who last year directed smash hit nostalgia drama “American Dreams in China,” has a role as producer, director or screenwriter. It has a five-year, five-film deal with Taiwan-based Star Ritz Intl. Entertainment covering the films of Ko (who also works under the pen name Nine Knives) and producer Angie Chai Zhi Ping.

Chinese media have recently reported that Wong will next direct a romance film that is an adaptation of a short story, about a married man’s affair, from the “I Belonged to You” collection written by mainland Chinese author Zhang Jiajia.

Zhang tipped off the media with a posting on his Weibo social media site. But Jettone last month told Variety that Wong would produce, not direct.

Patrick Tong, CEO of another Greater China media group Mei Ah which part-financed “The Grandmaster” said that it too would be financing a new Wong Kar-wai film. But the company has not responded to Variety’s queries and the projects may be unconnected.

Wong, who has long been globally cherished as an arthouse icon, is a hot property in China after “The Grandmaster,” his auteurist martial arts biopic became by far his biggest box office success in China and Hong Kong. Starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Zhang Ziyi, the picture grossed $45.7 million in China and amassed huge hauls of prizes at the Golden Horse, Hong Kong and Asian Film Awards events.

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