State-owned China Film Group invest millions in Hollywood productions Seventh Son and Warcraft
China Film Group is hoping to buy some cinematic magic with an 'eight figure' investment in two Tinseltown productions
State-owned China Film Group Corporation (CFGC) has made an "eight-figure" equity investment in upcoming Hollywood productions - the first time the entertainment giant has funded movies made there.
CFGC chairman La Peikang and Peter Loehr, CEO of Hong Kong-based American subsidiary Legendary East, announced the move just two days before the opening of the Beijing International Film Festival.
The companies will team up for Seventh Son, a fantasy movie starring Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, and Warcraft, based on the popular video game series.
Neither China Film nor Legendary East have announced the exact investment amount.
China Film Group, the country's largest film producer and distributor, will be responsible for the distribution of the films, if and when they are approved by state censors.
CFGC is preparing for an initial public offering.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television allows up to 34 foreign films to be imported into the mainland a year. Hollywood has lobbied Beijing heavily over the years to allow more US films into the market.
Legendary ended its partnership with Chinese film producer and distributor Huayi Brothers in late 2011. Last May, its Asia arm Legendary East signed a three-year deal with China Film to co-produce movies. The two are still working on their first collaboration, an epic fantasy titled The Great Wall.
China, the world's second-largest economy, became the world's second-biggest film market behind the US last year, according to statistics released by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Hollywood filmmakers have tailored scripts and allowed scenes to be deleted from their productions in order to win approval from China's various censorship organs. Gaining access to a country with more than 1.3 billion people and more than 10,000 big screens is providing sufficient incentive for some of Hollywood's big-name studios and directors to let China's rigorous censors - hypersensitive to depictions of its showcase cities and history - have a say in the movie-making process.
That might be a barrier to entry for some. But films like Casino Royale, The Karate Kid, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End have turned massive profit in China in return.
Monster action movie Pacific Rim, Legendary's most recent release in China, co-produced and co-financed with then-partner Warner Brothers Entertainment, outperformed the US box office by US$115 million.
Seventh Son, which also stars Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, is due to be released in the US in February 2015. Warcraft is slated for a release in March 2016.
" Seventh Son and Warcraft offer precisely the kind of unique worlds, stunning visuals and compelling stories that we originally partnered with China Film to create," Loehr told The Hollywood Reporter.
"We are very pleased to welcome [the company] into these productions and believe this is a fantastic way to kick-start what will be a successful relationship."