The AFM, which gets underway tomorrow, will see a record influx of Chinese companies and execs. But that’s not the only draw for Mainland players this week. The 2013 U.S. China Film Summit kicks off today in LA with execs and talent attending that include Village Roadshow Pictures Asia CEO Ellen Eliasoph, CAA China managing director Jonah Greenberg, MPA president for Asia-Pacific, Mike Ellis, and Xiao Lu Xue, director of box office hit Finding Mr Right. Last night, an event organized by the MPAA and China’s SAPPRFT was held at Universal to celebrate the start of the third annual China International Co-Production Film Screenings. Attending were NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, MPAA chief Chris Dodd and China Film Group vice chairman Jiao Hongfen, among others. Meyer delivered a speech in which he said, “We are focused on building new and expanded partnerships to establish long-term relationships between Universal and China.” He also noted that Universal’s “key initiatives” include “doing more co-productions and establishing an office in Beijing that will be our base of operations in China.” It further emerged that Despicable Me 2 will have a China release in early 2014. (The original Despicable Me was not released there and earlier this year, the sequel had been denied a slot.) “As Universal enters its 2nd century in Hollywood, we look forward to working closely with the Chinese film industry to deliver outstanding movies for fans in both of our countries and around the world,” Meyer said, noting that Universal has enjoyed a “very good year” at the Chinese box office with films like Les Misérables, Oblivion, Fast & Furious 6 and Jurassic Park 3D. Dodd, according to The Hill, remarked, “Along with the increasing level of exchanges between our two film industries, more partnerships have been formed, more cinemas have been built, more films have been produced and shown in both of our nations.”
Shanghai’s financial district may soon be better known as the city’s entertainment hub. Robert De Niro and his partners are working on a massive cultural development there while Bruno Wu’s Pinewood Chinawood studio base is also due to be housed in the waterfront Bund area. Today, The Walt Disney Company China said it will open “the world’s largest Disney Store” in Lujiazui, part of the financial district on the east side of Huangpu River in the Pudong area. The store itself will be a 10,800-square-foot space housed on a 53,000 square-foot site that will also host family entertainment events. Disney is building its first mainland China theme park, Shanghai Disneyland, as the the centerpiece of its Shanghai Disney Resort which is targeted to open in Pudong at the end of 2015. Disney said today that the store, which is to open in early 2015, will be “an important site where fans can track the progress of Shanghai Disney Resort.”
Steven Spielberg’s Cannes Jury Duty Leads DreamWorks To Remake Deal On ‘Like Father, Like Son’
By Mike Fleming Jr – EXCLUSIVE: Who says jury duty is a waste of time? DreamWorks is negotiating right now with Fuji TV for remake rights to the Japanese film Like Father, Like Son (Soshite Chichi Ni Naru).
R.I.P. Talent Manager J.J. Harris
By Nikki Finke - Motion picture and television talent agent/manager J.J. Harris died of what is believed to be natural causes on Friday afternoon and was found today in her Beverly Hills home by her staff. She was 62
MPAA Wins Hotfile Copyright Lawsuit
By Dominic Patten - Nearly two years and a half years after first filing their suit on behalf of several studios, the MPAA today scored a victory against file-sharing service Hotfile.
Venice Film Festival: Will The Lido Shuffle Biz Into Awards Season?
By Nancy Tartaglione - The Venice Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, and with it a renewed second outing for fest chief Alberto Barbera.
Labor Day Box Office: ‘One Direction’ Winning 3-Day Weekend But Will ‘The Butler’ Take 4-Day Holiday?
By Nikki Finke - This is too close to call right now. And film order is up in the air as well. Every Hollywood studio except Sony seems certain that Lee Daniels’ The Butler from The Weinstein Company will threepeat for #1 at the end of the 4-day Labor Day holiday.
DMG Entertainment, the Beijing-based company that teamed with Disney/Marvel on Iron Man 3, is partnering with Alcon Entertainment to finance, produce, and distribute a series of films beginning with Johnny Depp-starrer Transcendence. The sci-fi pic that marks Wally Pfister’s directorial debut began shooting last month and has set an April 2014 release. Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall and Kate Mara also star. DMG and Alcon will also pair on the Ericson Core-helmed remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfing/crime thriller Point Break. Shooting starts at the end of 2013 with the action transferred to the world of international extreme sports. Under the partnership, DMG will distribute both pictures in China. Warner Bros. has North America.
The Transcendence team has done a solid job keeping a tight lid on the plot of Jack Paglen’s script, but DMG provided some details today in Beijing. The story is set in the world of artificial intelligence science and, according to CEO Dan Mintz, “is about that moment when human consciousness and the insanely fast rise of computing power collide.”
Mintz also said, “We are very excited that these will be the first two films of what will be a long-lasting and very successful partnership with Alcon. We look forward to making history with our new partner.”
DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke at the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China on Friday. He did not refer to last week’s move by the Chinese authorities to pull The Croods from release ahead of schedule, but he did address the differences between handling “rules, regulations, and traditions” in China versus in Hollywood. Here are his remarks on DreamWorks Animation’s history, and future, in the booming market:
Timing, we all know the importance of this. In fact, when the timing is right, anything and everything is possible. Today in China the timing is right. We’ve arrived at a unique moment in this country, and you might say it’s actually been 5,000 years in the making. For ages, China has been known for its Great Wall. Now it might be better symbolized by a portal of opportunity that has begun to swing open.
But as with everything else here, this portal is distinctly Chinese in its appearance, its intricacy and its functionality. At DreamWorks Animation, we are becoming something of a case study for how things and timing is so important when it comes to China. It all started a few years (ago) when two seemingly completely unrelated events were taking place at opposite ends of the planet.
In Beijing, the country’s leadership was recognizing the importance of soft power. Meanwhile in Hollywood, DreamWorks was given the green light to a movie called Kung Fu Panda. I would love to tell you that we did this as part of a very shrewd strategy to gain entrée into China. It wasn’t. We just liked the idea of a film about a panda who wants to do kung fu.
Walt Disney Co chief Bob Iger was one of the panelists at Thursday’s Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China, discussing the interaction between culture and economics and brands in the future development of China:
I think there’s a misconception that exists in the world, because technology and development overall has created access to markets, to territories, to countries that is unprecedented, meaning we’ve never seen it before, that maybe the world is gradually becoming kind of a one world culture. And I think that’s absolutely not the case.
I think you can really trip a company up if they start believing that, because the pride that geographies or countries, or markets have for their own culture, and the desire to own and control it still is quite existent, whether it’s for political reasons, economic reasons, or just nationalistic reasons.
And so if you are a global brand like Disney, and we’re different from a brand perspective because we’re not a consumable, really, even though people consume our products, they buy our product. We’re much ore of an experience brand, whether you’re watching a movie, watching a television show, certainly going to a theme park. And I think because we are an experience brand, we touch culture in a very different way than a typical luxury brand might.
And when that happens I think you have to be very careful. You have to have a very deft hand, because on one hand the Disney brand and what it stands for is of interest to the culture and to the people in the culture. Disney, that’s certainly the case we’re an optimistic brand or an inclusive brand. We’re a brand that is viewed as good for me and good for my family. There are values to the Disney brand and what it stands for that have interested people all over the world. But, it’s very, very important that while we bring Disney to a market we make sure that in that market it feels like, for instance, China’s Disney. It can’t just be the Disney that exists in carbon copy form somewhere else in the world.
Bruno Wu is called the ’CEO of China’ as in Chief Entertainment Officer. Known for blending work and pleasure during nightly dinners at his Shanghai supper club, he is decidedly a controversial media mogul. Even more so after he made a spate of high-profile announcements over the past 15 months with very little to show for them so far. Little wonder there’s a lot of skepticism about his complex network of companies plus important relationships with major filmmakers. He came to Hollywood to kick the tires about acquiring Summit Entertainment in late 2011, and by February 2012 formed the Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund with an initial capital-raising target of $800M to invest in mergers, acquisitions, distribution, marketing, and content. This was followed by a series of joint ventures with Fast & Furious 6 director Justin Lin and Spider-Man franchise producer Avi Arad plus plans to remake John Woo’s The Killer. He also has intentions to build a mega-media hub in China called Chinawood.
Wu is based in China but is a fluent English and French speaker who earned his PhD from Shanghai’s Fudan University, has his Master’s from Washington University in St Louis, and also studied at the Université de Savoie in the French Alps. He was COO of Asia Television Ltd in the early 1990s before co-chairing Sina.com, the owner of China’s version of Twitter. He is currently chairman of the Chinese online video portal Ku6 Media Co Ltd. His own companies include the Sun Redrock Investment Group, Sun Enterprises, and the Sun Media Group, which is headed by his wife Yang Lan (known as the ‘Oprah of China with 55 million social media followers) and owns a TV production banner and a female-skewed media and marketing company called Her Village among many entities. Wu’s new Seven Stars Media Group houses all of the entertainment-related ventures announced in the past 15 months, including Tiger TV which will be a mixed martial arts channel launching later this summer in both the U.S. and China. Wu himself is an executive producer on two movies that were showcased at last month’s Cannes Film Festival where he traveled with an entourage consisting of bodyguards and two Michelin-starred chefs. That’s where I conducted this rare interview:
DEADLINE: There’s a history of people who make splashy announcements and tarnish themselves when they don’t follow through. You’ve had this series of announcements and little seems to have actually happened. There’s been some skepticism.
BRUNO WU: Again, first of all, everything that we have announced is in very good proceeding. So far they all made their schedule and are exceeding their schedule. With the exception of our partnership with Jake Eberts because he suddenly passed away which was a real setback on Last Empress. And except for the remake of The Killer that, because of the difference of opinion over the script, we’ll probably turn into a TV series through Justin Lin’s company. So we so far are at the point where everything we’ve done we are well ahead of schedule. Normally, we don’t like to make announcements. But when we work with a partner, you announce it, and certain things must be announced to make it clear. But we don’t have to announce every progress until we have a product coming to the market. In a way, I understand the skepticism but it really doesn’t matter to me. I’m not bothered by it. To me, I focus on the fundamentals of business. It’s how do I build lean-and-mean scalable high-value creation, great IP creation, great brand creation with the best talent for the content, very strong digital distribution, all distribution, partnerships with best partners in every silo, control pay and platform digital distribution and control the new generation of P&A which is social media marketing and viral. Those to me are the fundamentals.
DEADLINE: What do you think the perception of you is outside of China, specifically in Hollywood?
BRUNO WU: Well, I tend not to worry about what the perception is. I think people have their different views over different things. They have different opinions over different business models and over different business interests. And I think anybody who tries to follow the conventional Hollywood rule, will probably be better liked than the ones who try to think a little bit out of the box. That will probably be more likely the case for a foreigner. I think that’s all natural. Understandable. But we don’t worry about this. We worry primarily about the fundamentals of a business in the entertainment field.
DEADLINE: Which is?
WU: I’m about building a next-generation entertainment company that’s lean and mean and scalable. Building an ecosystem for the bigger Chinese movie scene. Exploring a new pathway and being a pioneer. As we say in Chinese, “Being the first brave man who has the guts to taste the crabs.” I see that there’s a very strong need to develop the next generation of film and TV companies. Which means that you have to be very highly concentrated only on IP and brand, and have a strong partnership with talent. I believe that IP is more people-driven than project-driven. That’s why I don’t buy the model of “hire somebody, write a script” – that you have an idea and then hire the people to go with it. I don’t do that. I’m very soon going to be announcing my deal with two of the top Chinese producers who just broke records like you wouldn’t believe. I invest in people. I think: people first, projects second. Also, you don’t have to do a lot of quantity. It’s the quality that counts. You don’t need these complicated development processes or very big overhead. You can outsource everything with every partner in every niche that’s highly specialized and are the best in the world. I’m happy to share. I like to work with the best people.