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AFM: China’s Road Pictures Drives Off With ‘US 66,’ $50 Million Fund (EXCLUSIVE)

Ambitious Chinese studio Road Pictures has launched a $50 million production fund that it will use to seed a slate of Hollywood-China co-venture movies.

The company will back “US 66,” an action comedy written by Roger Avary that will be produced in partnership with Greg Shapiro’s Kingsgate Films (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”).

“The concept behind ‘US 66’ was to have Chinese and American protagonists who are of equal value,” said Cai Gongming, Road Pictures’ founder. “It will be a real physical and verbal culture clash, predominantly shot in English, except those parts of the story where Chinese is more appropriate.”

Casting of an American-Chinese actor is currently under way.

The story involves the spoiled son of a Chinese billionaire who breaks from a vacation with his father to indulge in a rather wild road trip with the former Navy Seal who is supposed to be his bodyguard.

“US 66” will be shot in fall 2016 on a $20 million-$30 million budget, with a third of that coming from the new fund, which counts private equity investors as its main backers. “Our ambition is not to be a bank, but to control enough of the production so that we end up with a film that can play well in China and the U.S., and for that we will be financing 100% of the development process,” said Cai.

The fund will likely also be used to back a currently unspecified multinational TV series, as well as the untitled Jason Statham-starring, Kurt Wimmer-scripted action thriller announced earlier this week. Co-production is with Steven Chasman’s SJ Pictures, on a $30 million-$40 million budget, also with a fall 2016 start of production and late 2017 release.

“The Road Pictures Fund is essentially our 2016 fund and is only a first round. We have much higher ambitions for the group,” Cai said.

The company sees itself as becoming one of the top 10 integrated Chinese film studios within the next six-10 years and achieve a stock market listing. “Our current strengths are in development and marketing, though we plan to expand in production, finance and distribution as well,” said Cai, a former senior executive in the auto industry, who has worked with VW-Audi and Mercedes. He founded the company in 2014, with Cao Jia as co-founder, and has been involved in Huayi Brothers Media’s “Only You” and the currently shooting Chinese-Italian co-production “Coffee.”

“ ‘Coffee’ is more arthouse than where we see Road Pictures going, but I am quite Germanic and, well, promised to do it,” said Cai.

Head of film is Julien Favre, a French executive who previously headed L.A.-based DViant Films. The company is advised by CAA in its U.S. business. Li Na, a former CJ Entertainment Beijing executive previously involved in Korean-Chinese hit remakes “A Wedding Invitation” and “20, Once Again,” is an executive head of the company and head of the Chinese production unit.

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