China’s Alibaba expands film investment by zeroing in on new movie of Korean star of hit soap My Love from the Star

E-commerce giant’s movie subsidiary Alibaba Pictures hopes to follow up on success of promoting smash hit Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 1:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 3:49pm

Alibaba Pictures announced this week that it will invest in the upcoming South Korean movie Real, which stars hit Korean soap actor Kim Soo-hyun.

This marks the second international venture from the movie subsidiary of China’s leading e-commerce giant Alibaba after it inked a deal earlier to promote the latest instalment of Tom Cruise’s smash hit Mission: Impossible franchise in China.

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“We’re investing in Real because the Korean film industry is arguably the most influential one, creatively speaking, in the region at present,” said Zhang Qiang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Pictures.

Alibaba Pictures signed an MOU to invest in the movie at the Busan Film Festival in Korea earlier this month. No exact figures were disclosed.

Alibaba said it will have sole distribution rights for the film in China and that it plans to leverage Alibaba Group’s resources to support the movie, This would include marketing it using the group’s hugely popular online marketplaces Taobao and Tmall.

Broadly speaking, the group’s resources are nothing if not immense. Since its record-breaking US$25 billion IPO in New York just over a year ago, Alibaba has gone on a wild spending spree that has seen it lavish billions of dollars to bolster its portfolio by acquiring companies in a range of fields from entertainment and logistics to travel and online retail.

Its film subsidiary has already hit the ground running by making the Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation deal.

The action spy thriller premiered in China last month and set a domestic box-office record for a 2D Hollywood movie in China, earning more than 869 million yuan (US$137 million) during its five-week run. Furious 7 earned over 15 times as much revenue, but much of this came from 3D screenings.

China only allows 34 foreign movies to screen in the country each year, in what is widely viewed as a protectionist move to bolster its domestic movie industry, while also, in Party speak, protecting the morals of its youth.

But that quota will be raised in 2017-18, foreign media quoted Lu Hongshi, vice-president of Chinese movie channel CCTV-6, as saying in April.

Alibaba Pictures had also invested in several Chinese films, one of which, The Ferryman, was produced by acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

It has also backed the 3D animation feature Little Door Gods and the fantasy movie Three Lives Three Worlds Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, which was co-directed by Spider-Man visual effect artist Anthony LaMolinara.

The film production and distribution arm of Alibaba Group came into being after the latter snapped up ChinaVision, a Chinese media group with rich content and broadcasting rights, in March 2014 and then renamed it.

In April, the renamed film subsidiary acquired Guangdong Yueke Software Engineering Company, one of the largest suppliers of cinema-ticketing systems in China, for a reported 830 million yuan.

The firm currently supplies more than 1,000 theatres across China with electronic ticketing systems, as well as facilitating third-party electronic payments using systems such as Alipay.

Zhang said Alibaba Pictures aims to “build a world-class integrated entertainment platform for the movie industry”.

Real star Kim is best known as the lead actor in the Korean TV series My Love from the Star, which became a huge hit in China after it aired online. The movie represents comeback after two years away from the silver screen.