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China’s Bona Film Boards Brad Pitt’s ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘A Dog’s Way Home’ (EXCLUSIVE)

China’s Bona Film Group is co-financing Brad Pitt space adventure “Ad Astra,” one of several films in a strong slate of international movies the company plans to release in the Middle Kingdom over the next year.

Bona has also acquired Roland Emmerich’s war spectacular “Midway” and is investing in “A Dog’s Way Home.”

Sourced from New Regency, James Gray’s “Ad Astra” stars Pitt as an astronaut who travels to the edge of the universe to be reunited with his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones.

New Regency previously produced Leonardo DiCaprio-starring “The Revenant,” which it partially financed by selling off the China rights. This time, Bona is co-financing “Ad Astra” and holding on to the rights in Greater China, meaning mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

“A Dog’s Way Home” follows “A Dog’s Purpose,” whose China box office of $88 million exceeded its haul of $64 million in North America, where it was handled by Universal. Bona founder and chairman Yu Dong and COO Jeffrey Chan are set as executive producers of the film, which stars Ashley Judd and Edward James Olmos, and tells the story of a dog that journeys 400 miles to be reunited with its owner. Bona holds rights in Greater China; Sony will handle the rest of the world, with a launch in early January.

Midway” was one of the handful of hot titles launched at Cannes this year, where sales agent AGC Studios fielded multiple offers in many territories. In June of last year, Bona and CAA jointly launched a $150 million content acquisition and investment fund, with a focus on English-language global movies and large-scale co-productions. The fund was one of the initial investors in “Midway.” The confirmed deal gives Bona rights across Greater China.

Other international films to which Bona holds Chinese rights include:

– “Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” the animated sequel produced by the U.K.’s Aardman Animation and acquired from Studiocanal. It starts to release in some international territories from January.

– “The Queen’s Corgi,” another British-styled animation, produced by Belgium’s Begla Productions and nWave Pictures, with sales by France’s Charades. The film is directed by Ben Stassen and boasts Julie Walters and Ray Winstone among the English-language voice cast. It releases in some parts of Europe on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14). Bona holds rights in mainland China.

-“In Cold Pursuit,” a revenge thriller also sourced from Studiocanal and directed by Hans Petter Moland. It is based on a Norwegian crime novel about a snow-plow driver who chases down the drug dealers he believes killed his son. It stars Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum and Laura Dern. Release in North America is set for Feb. 8 through Lionsgate.

Regulations in China require that films imported on revenue-sharing terms are released through state-owned distributors. That principle is slowly being softened, especially in the case where a private Chinese firm is an investor.

Bona was previously listed on the NASDAQ exchange in the U.S. and is currently privately owned. A healthy slate of high-profile Hollywood titles that deliver strong first-half box office would support its valuation ahead of a presumed relisting on a Chinese stock exchange in 2019.

Bona has previously been involved in high-profile funding of Hollywood titles. Working through Chip Seelig’s TSG, it provided some $235 million for a six-film slate of 20th Century Fox movies, including “The Martian.” That deal was subsequently expanded to include a seventh title.

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