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‘A Dog’s Journey’ Adds China Interest With Henry Lau, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin

Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners has begun principal photography on the sequel “A Dog’s Journey.” Tailored for the Chinese market, the film sees Henry Lau, Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, and Kathryn Prescott join Dennis Quaid in the cast.

“A Dog’s Journey” is the follow-up to 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” which portrayed a single dog’s spirit incarnated through the lives of four separate canines. Both films are based on the inspirational novels by W. Bruce Cameron. The film is co-financed and co-produced by Walden Media and Alibaba Pictures with Quaid reprising his role as the owner of the dog Bailey, voiced again by Josh Gad.

“A Dog’s Purpose” was a surprise hit in China, where Alibaba was a marketing and distribution partner. China delivered $88 million of the film’s $196 million global cumulative, compared with $65 million from North America.

Gail Mancuso is directing from a screenplay by the writing teams of W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon and Wally Wolodarsky & Maya Forbes. Gavin Polone is producing the film. “A Dog’s Journey” will be distributed by Universal Pictures in the U.S., with a May 19 opening, and select international territories.

Despite controversy over one of the dogs in “A Dog’s Purpose” being allegedly mistreated, the film performed solidly at the box office with $188 million worldwide. The announcement was made Sunday, which is National Dog Day in the United States.

Amblin said China’s pet industry has recently seen tremendous growth and noted that earlier this year, the China Pet Products Association reported a total of 50 million registered dogs in the country, with pet ownership growing at 15% a year.

Alibaba Pictures and Amblin signed a strategic alliance to co-produce and finance films in October 2016. Alibaba also backed Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and the upcoming Chinese movie based on the U.K.’s Peppa Pig cartoon series, “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year.”

“Our mission is to be a gateway for Hollywood into China and help great universal stories with positive energy maximize their potential with audiences in China and around the world,” said Alibaba Pictures President Zhang Wei. “‘A Dog’s Purpose’ was embraced by audiences globally with great storytelling and a heartwarming message. We are excited to build upon the success of that film by working with our partners at Amblin and Walden to bring the next chapter of this film to audiences around the world.”

Toronto-born Lau is a Hong Kong-Canadian singer-actor who has become a major youth icon in both China and South Korea. He got his breakthrough in 2008 as the Chinese-speaking member of SM Entertainment’s Super Junior M pop act. He began a solo music career in 2013 with “Trap.” At that point he started to build a TV career in both Korea and China, with shows including MBC’s “We Got Married” and Hunan TV’s “Happy Life.” In 2014 he appeared with “Crazy Rich Asians” star Michelle Yeoh in pan-Asia drama film “Final Recipe.”

Helgenberger is best known for starring in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” Gilpin stars in Netflix’s “GLOW.” Prescott’s credits include “Skins” and “Finding Carter.”

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