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More China-U.S. Deals on the Way, Say Top Execs

The entertainment industry is getting ready for more deals in the explosive Chinese market.

That was the bottom line Monday from the U.S.-China Film and TV Industry Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center as a variety of execs cited an increased familiarity with how the two countries operate.

“There’s a willingness on both sides to engage in a meaningful way,” Lionsgate’s chief operating officer Brian Goldsmith said during an Art of Dealmaking panel. “There’s that intangible feeling that you can do more business.”

The momentum in strategic investments dates back to Wanda’s 2012 purchase of the AMC chain and includes Chinese investments by Hunan in Lionsgate, Fosun in Studio 8, Hony and the Huayi brothers in STX and joint ventures by China Media Capital with Warner Bros. and Imax.

“There’s at least as many deals in China that aren’t public,” said attorney Stephen Scharf of O’Melveny & Myers, who moderated the panel.

Several speakers agreed that the annual Chinese box office will match the American box office in 2017, thanks to the boom in moviegoing for both American and Chinese blockbusters such as “Lost in Hong Kong,” which enjoyed a massive opening this weekend.

“The bar of what’s a big commercial box office success in China has really shifted,” Goldsmith noted.

James Fong, CEO of three-year-old joint venture Oriental DreamWorks, noted that first production “Kung Fu Panda 3” is nearing completion with different scripts for the English- and Chinese-language versions, due to the importance of tailoring the humor and story to best fit the two cultures.

‘There’s a tremendous amount of data from Glendale to Shanghai,” he noted.

Donald Tang, founding partner of Tang Media Partners and a key player in the STX transactions, said the two markets are feeding off each other.

“Hollywood needs China for market and financing and China needs Hollywood to learn how to tell stories,” he noted. “The West has an insatiable appetite for Chinese stories; it just hasn’t been expressed in the right way.”

Experts also said the current annual import quota of 34 U.S. films will eventually be eased.

“There’s a higher comfort level in China in dealing with the US so the barriers will come down,” said Dragongate CEO William Pfeiffer during a discussion on the future of content delivery.

“The consumers ability to pay in China is enormous,” he added. “It will be a huge business going forward.”

Pfeiffer said Chinese investors are looking to make technological acquisitions with an eye to improved delivery.

“The world is getting smaller and smaller,” said Jean Su, president of Broadvision. “The cultures are getting closer and closer.”

The expo, now in its second year, is operated in partnership with Variety. The event concludes Tuesday.

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