Alibaba Pictures to fund movies with Paramount, Italian director

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 April, 2016, 9:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2016, 9:47pm

Alibaba Pictures, the entertainment subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is ratcheting up Chinese investments in overseas movie projects this year with two new major Hollywood deals and a European co-production venture.

Hong Kong-listed Alibaba Pictures on Monday said it has agreed to invest in two new productions under Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Star Trek Beyond – following their successful partnership in Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, a global box office hit released last year.

The company also said it has forged a deal to jointly make a movie with famed Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, who helmed Cinema Paradiso and The Legend of 1900, as its initial foray into the European film industry.

The financial terms of those initiatives were not disclosed. Both deals were announced on the sidelines of the Sixth Beijing International Film Festival, an eight-day event that concludes on Saturday.

Zhang Qiang, the chief executive at Alibaba Pictures, said the company was focused on developing “global blockbusters” and looked forward to “partnering with more outstanding directors from different countries”.

It is a strategy that Hangzhou-based parent Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, has backed amid a lingering economic slowdown in China.

Earlier this month, Alibaba Pictures and Hollywood film production company Skydance Media announced a deal to co-finance and produce The Flying Tigers. The movie is based on the exploits of the first American volunteer group of the Chinese Air Force that flew combat missions between December 1941 and July 1942.

Alibaba Pictures in December invested US$86 million as a partner in a group that plans to buy and take private Bona Film Group, a Nasdaq-listed Chinese movie studio and distributor.

The Alibaba subsidiary, which rebounded from losses in 2014 to a 466 million yuan net profit last year, also agreed to invest in South Korean movie Real in October, while obtaining its exclusive distribution rights in mainland China.

Another affluent Chinese conglomerate investing in the movie industry is the Dalian Wanda Group, which agreed to buy a controlling stake in US film production company Legendary Entertainment for US$3.5 billion in January.

That marked the biggest deal made by a Chinese company in Hollywood to date. The Chinese property and entertainment giant controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin had bought US cinema chain AMC Theatres for US$2.6 billion in 2012.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun has also pursued his own deals. Ma’s Yunfeng Capital teamed up with Tencent Holdings and Huayi Brothers Media in December to buy a Hong Kong-listed company for HK$547 million, with a plan to turn it into an international film production outfit.

Global box office crossed the US$38 billion mark for the first time last year, according to US media research company Rentrak.