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China’s Tencent Pictures Ratchets Up Role as Next Generation Film, TV Powerhouse

Tencent Pictures, the film-making arm of Chinese Internet giant Tencent, has unveiled a 43-title production, distribution and investment slate for 2018, including “Zombie Brother,” co-produced with Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin’s Free Association. The lineup is further evidence of Tencent’s intention to become a major content producer in addition to its role as a distribution and marketing platform.

If Chinese cinema’s recent up-and-down year is supposed to have dented the ambition of local film groups, this represents pushback by a company confident that its multimedia approach can take it much further than its rivals. Of the 43 projects, 20 are feature films; the rest are animation, TV series and made-for-Internet shows.

The announcement Sunday night at a glitzy event in Beijing marked the second anniversary of Tencent Pictures, just one of social-media-and-games giant Tencent’s initiatives in mainstream film and TV entertainment. Held at the spectacular Phoenix Center, the gathering was a tightly choreographed affair, with guests required to check in using QR codes and PIN numbers, and speakers making extensive use of autocue. The red carpet was draped across many levels of the glass and steel building and walked on by more than 100 onstage guests, as well as visiting talent and executives.

VIPs in attendance included talent David Goyer, Ge You, Zhang Guoli, Doze Niu, and Derek Yee. Executives included CAA’s Jonah Greenberg, Bona Film’s Yu Dong, Huayi Brothers’ James Wang, and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Carrie Wong.

A video message from Tatum was among the highlights. “Zombie Brother” is an adaptation of the No. 1 title on Tencent’s digital comics platform and has already been adapted in China as a hit animated series and stage play, with Tencent and Free Association developing it for the international market. This is emblematic of Tencent Pictures’ strategy of building on the group’s stock of games, literature and web properties to create content.

Another multinational venture is “Tuzki,” an animated film based on a kinetic pink cartoon character owned by Tencent which has already appeared on food and beverage offerings and in the “Dragon Nest” film. Partners include Original Force, a U.S.-Chinese animation producer, and Turner Asia Pacific. Turner’s Asia finance director Clement Schwebig was on hand to promote the co-venture.

“We will make long-term investments in film and TV in order to build the Chinese industry. The success of movies helps build culture of our country and invigorates traditional culture,” said Mark Ren Yuxin, COO of Tencent and chairman of Tencent Pictures. “We have expanded from games, literature and animation. Now we are moving further into film and TV.”

Top Chinese director Lu Chuan unveiled his newest project ,“20000 Miles.” Having recently completed Disney Nature’s “Born in China,” Lu is again poised to make use of an international crew, including production designer Colin Gibson, for the picture. Taiwan’s Su Chaopin (writer of “The Crossing” and “Reign of Assassins”) is to make “Pathfinder,” a sci-fi moon exploration movie with a female villain.

Other upcoming projects include both film and TV serial versions of “The Tibet Code,” a movie version of “Qing Yu Nian” (aka “Chapter Five”), and series adaptations of “Mystery of the Antiques” and “Prince of Tennis.”

Strategic pacts were announced with New Classics Media, CKF Pictures and Haina Pictures. Other one-off projects entail collaboration with Hainan TV’s Mango Pictures, Perfect World Pictures and streaming video giant iQIYI, as well as with Tencent group companies Tencent Video and Penguin Pictures.

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