Chinese studio Bona Film Group has signed a deal to invest $235 million in a slate of Hollywood tentpole movies from 20th Century Fox.
The NASDAQ-listed Chinese distributor is making the investment through TSG Entertainment Finance, headed by financial guru Chip Seelig’s the Seelig Group.
Seelig, who was previously head of Dune Capital, has a longstanding relationship with 20th Century Fox, and has a slate funding deal with Fox. The new deal effectively entitles Bona to participate in TSG’s ongoing slate financing arrangement.
The deal allows the Chinese firm to invest in six live-action tentpoles. The first of these is the Ridley Scott-directed hit “The Martian,” on which the Seelig Group is credited as a producer. Bona will own 20% of the equity and participate in global revenues in proportion.
“China is a critical market to our long-term economic success,” said Seelig.
“This is a done deal, the money has been paid over already,” said sources close to the deal. East West Bank provided the credit facility to Bona for the transaction.
Significantly, the deal puts Bona in the role of a purely financial investor and does not give it distribution rights in China, where it is a leading distributor. Fox’s studio-level movies will continue to be treated as imported titles and will be distributed on a revenue-sharing basis through state-owned enterprises China Film Group and Huaxia Distribution.
“We look forward to participating in more mainstream Hollywood productions and bringing high-quality foreign films to the domestic market. The ability to diversify our film slate is an important factor propelling Bona to a position as one of the leading film companies in China and across the world,” said Yu Dong, Bona’s founder, chairman and CEO.
“The Martian,” which has already scored global box office of $429 million, will be released in China, one of its largest remaining territories, on Nov. 25. Its significant and positive portrayal of the Chinese space effort may help endear the film to regulators and audiences in China.
Other films covered by the deal are likely to include the upcoming “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “War of the Planet of the Apes,” Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
The slate is understood to have been offered to other Chinese players including Alibaba and Tencent.
Bona celebrated Wednesday at a lavish Santa Monica party on the first day of the American Film Market.
The deal was developed by Pacific Media Group and negotiated by Jeffrey Chan, COO of Bona, with Seelig of TSG. The financing was structured by Nicolas Qi, CFO of Bona, with the Bona Film Fund and East West Bank. Bona was represented by the Century City office of O’Melveny & Myers and Alexander Lawrence Frumes & Labowitz, with additional legal support from Travers Thorp Alberga, and Hankun Law. The Seelig Group was represented by the New York office of Proskauer, and East West Bank by the Los Angeles Office of Atkin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.