BBC, China’s SMG to Co-Produce ‘Earth,’ Release ‘Sherlock’ in Chinese Theaters

LONDON — U.K. broadcaster the BBC and China’s Shanghai Media Group have signed a landmark deal that will see them work together on two of the BBC’s highest-profile franchises, “Earth” and “Sherlock.”

BBC Earth Films and SMG Pictures, the film and television production arm of Shanghai Media Group, will co-produce feature film “Earth: One Amazing Day.” The film is the sequel to “Earth,” which was a box office hit in several major territories, including the U.S., Japan, and Germany, and grossed $92 million worldwide. SMG Pictures will distribute the film in China. It will be the first feature film to be produced under the U.K. and China film co-production treaty, which was signed in March (read more here).

The film will be directed by British filmmaker Peter Webber (“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “Hannibal Rising”), together with a Chinese director still to be announced. It will tell the story of one day in the life of the planet, looking at real-life dramas that occur in the natural world. The film is slated for theatrical release in 2017, a decade after the release of “Earth.”

The deal will be signed at a ceremony in London with Wang Jianjun, director-general and president, representing SMG, and Paul Dempsey, president, global markets, representing BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm.

The signing ceremony will take place at an event being held at Lancaster House in London on Wednesday that aims to showcase British creativity. It forms part of the official Chinese state visit to the U.K. by China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Amongst the guests attending the event will be Sue Vertue, board director of Hartswood Films and series producer of “Sherlock.” Vertue will attend to celebrate the second BBC announcement, that “Sherlock” is expected to be shown in movie theaters in China. Pending regulatory approval, the new “Sherlock” Special will be released in Chinese theaters as part of a global cinema event. Since first launching in China in 2010 the series has developed a major following, with over 98 million views in China of the last season alone.

The “Sherlock” Special will see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their roles as Holmes and Watson in a one-off episode set in Victorian London in 1895. The episode has been co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and will also see series regulars Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Louise Brealey and Amanda Abbington join the cast. It is directed by Douglas Mackinnon (“Doctor Who,” “Line of Duty”). “Sherlock” is produced by Hartswood Films for the BBC and co-produced by Masterpiece in the U.S.

Tim Davie, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: “Today’s announcements herald an exciting new collaboration between the Chinese and British creative industries. There is a keen appetite in China for premium British content, and creating two new cinematic experiences in partnership with SMG Pictures is a landmark moment for two of our biggest brands, ‘Sherlock’ and ‘BBC Earth’.”

Wang, director-general and president of SMG, said: “I am delighted that SMG Pictures will be the co-producer of the first feature film to be produced under the landmark U.K. and China film co-production treaty. This milestone event will act as a bridge between Sino-U.K. cultural exchanges and set up a new model for Sino-U.K. collaboration.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • TV Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville'

    TV News Roundup: Erica Durance Reprises 'Smallville' Role in 'Arrowverse' Crossover

    In today’s TV news roundup, Erica Durance reprises her “Smallville” role in the CW’s annual “Arrowverse” crossover, and Showtime shares with Variety an exclusive sneak peek at the return of “The Circus.” FIRST LOOKS “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime,” Alex Wagner says in a new trailer for the fourth season of [...]

  • Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel WME

    Endeavor Targets Sept. 27 for Stock Debut, IPO Video Tells Company's Origin Story

    After years of preparation, Endeavor is set to make its formal Wall Street debut on Sept. 27, when its stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Endeavor has targeted Sept. 26 for the final pricing of its shares. The stock will trade publicly the following day. Earlier this week, Endeavor said its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content