Chinese Effects Leader BaseFX Sold to Sunac Culture (EXCLUSIVE)

BaseFX, one of China’s leading visual effects groups, has been bought by fast-moving media conglomerate Sunac Culture Group.

The group, which has film and TV credits including “Star Trek: Beyond” and “Aquaman,” was founded in Beijing in 2006 and subsequently expanded to other sites in China at Wuxi and Xiamen. Last year it opened a facility in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The deal was signed in Beijing this week between BaseFX founder Chris Bremble and Sunac Cutlure CEO Kevin Sun Zheyi. CAA advised on the deal.

The value of the transaction was not disclosed. Nor was the resulting ownership structure.

However, Variety understands that Sunac Culture becomes the substantial majority owner, assumes current debt and has committed itself to a capital injection that allows BaseFX to regroup and expand. Most of the previous shareholders, including Li Ruigang’s China Media Capital, now exit, leaving Bremble as the second largest shareholder, alongside one other minority investor.

It is also understood that the deal covers the Kuala Lumpur startup facility, production arm Base Pictures – one of the producers on last year’s Simon West-directed Chinese-language actioner “SkyFire.” Base Pictures is also one of the producers on major animated feature “Wish Dragon,” which Sony Pictures will release later this year.

Sunac Culture, an offshoot of Sunac China, is China’s fourth largest property group. Where Sunac China came to the rescue of distressed media players Dalian Wanda and LeEco, Sunac Culture is intent on rising from the ashes and building a vertically-integrated movies to offline entertainment group. It currently manages the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a studio complex with 40 state-of-the-art sound stages that Wanda was forced to sell in 2017.

“The addition of Base will enrich Sunac Culture’s production capabilities in the fields of visual effects, animation and post-production for film and television,” said Sun.

“Sunac Culture will also continue to support and encourage Base. In addition to maintaining its core competitiveness of special effects production with global advantages, (Sunac and BaseFX) will innovate and develop original animation production.”

BaseFX was founded by Bremble and craft workers who had produced Bremble’s 2005 film “Deep Rescue.” Its early years coincided with a Chinese film industry that was still in its infancy, did not need the highest quality effects, and in many cases could not afford BaseFX’s prices. As a result, while based in Beijing, BaseFX was principally working on Hollywood series and movies.

In 2013, the group announced a strategic alliance with the Disney-owned Industrial Light & Magic. In the following years, CMC bought out ILM’s share interest in BaseFX.

The company won Emmy Awards for its work on “The Pacific,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Black Sails,” while its Hollywood credits have included “Captain America” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Recent years have seen Chinese-made films with bigger budgets and greater ambitions, but they have also brought greater costs and rising competition in the sector. While BaseFX added Chinese credits including “Wolf Totem,” smash hits “Monster Hunt” and “The Wandering Earth,” frequently referred to as China’s first blockbuster sci-fi movie, the group also found itself in loss in 2018.

One of its latest efforts is the visual effects on “Leap,” the sports action drama about China’s triumphant women’s volleyball team, that is directed by Peter Chan Ho-sun. The picture is widely tipped to be a smash on release during Chinese New Year later this month.

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