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China’s Tencent Pictures to Invest in Legendary’s ‘Warcraft’

Tencent Pictures, the movie investment arm of China’s social media giant Tencent, will take an equity stake in Legendary Pictures’ “Warcraft”, the upcoming adaptation of video game “World of Warcraft.”

The deal is part of two new partnerships, with Legendary — and another with Wanda Cinemas — announced Thursday.

“Warcraft,” now in post-production, is an epic fantasy adventure directed by Duncan Jones, and starring Travis Fimmel and Paula Patton. It is set for release from May and June 2016. Tencent’s investment in the picture is a direct parallel to the investment in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” by rival Chinese Internet group Alibaba Pictures.

The deals were unveiled as Tencent Pictures announced a new executive lineup. Tencent COO Mark Ren will be the chairman of Tencent Pictures, while Tencent VP Edward Cheng will be the CEO of Tencent Pictures.

“Tencent Pictures, whose birth was foreshadowed in an announcement a year ago, when the unit was dubbed Tencent Movies Plus, also unveiled a slate of its own movie and TV creations. With parent company Tencent one of the world’s largest games distributors, Tencent Pictures will focus heavily on adapting existing intellectual property into longer form content.

“As a company we have such huge reach and such a wide number of intellectual properties, the idea behind Tencent Pictures is to help expand our smart platform capabilities and harness big data,” a spokesman told Variety.

Tencent Pictures will itself house three production and investment entities. These will be operated independently of each other and it is not yet clear whether they will be functionally separate, focused uniquely one one kind of source material. “We are going to have to see how it develops,” the spokesman said.

The company’s slate announced Thursday includes adaptations of comic book properties, games and literary titles.

Earlier in the day it was revealed that the company will partner with Celestial Pictures on a remake of “The Magic Blade” a 1970s  martial arts movie originally produced by the legendary Shaw Studios.


The separate deal with Wanda Cinemas will see the two companies making use of various Wanda locations to host different marketing and promotional activities, and to drive traffic to Wanda multiplexes and malls. The deal underlines the already huge and still growing importance of the Internet giants in movie marketing in China. China’s largest private sector cinema chain, Wanda Cinemas is a separately listed subsidiary of Dalian Wanda, the property to entertainment that also owns U.S. cinema chain AMC and Australian chain Hoyts.

Last week Tencent also unveiled the launch of Shanghai-based Penguin Pictures. That will be more focused on online drama production than feature films.

“Tencent Pictures’ role is to develop IP into valuable franchises that will generate more returns over the long run. It has access to IP on hand including an expanded library of books online,” the spokesman said. “Penguin Pictures is about seizing better control of internally-produced drama, with its roles ranging from IP selection to distribution.”



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