EXCLUSIVE: As Hollywood continues to learn the ropes in China, I’m hearing that there are a host of big management shifts coming at the upper echelons of the Chinese film business. There have been rumors for some time that China Film Group senior management would change or retire this year, and I’m now told that some moves have been made, while others could be imminent. The biggest involves influential Chinese executive Han Sanping. I’ve heard that a decision for him to step down as chairman of China Film Group was made around New Year’s Day. The state-owned CFG essentially controls distribution in China and is the key to getting foreign movies into the country since it alone has the right to import them. It is also the biggest producer of local films and co-productions. In his role as chairman of CFG, Han has been referred to as the “gatekeeper” between Hollywood and China. (China film industry expert Robert Cain once wrote of him, “If you took Jack Valenti, Lew Wasserman, and Steven Spielberg and rolled them into one, you’d begin to get an idea of Han’s power and influence in China.”) At age 60, it’s understood he’s been eyeing a move. This is not an ousting, I’m told. Rather, I hear Han will go on to run a large film fund …
Is China-Hollywood “Gatekeeper” Han Sanping Segueing Out At China Film Group Amid Big Changes Atop Local Biz?
The first of the film projects Relativity Media is making with its China joint venture partner Sky Land is officially underway in the Shandong province city of Linyi. The comedy 21 And Over was written and is being directed by The Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and stars Miles Teller, Justin Chon, Skylar Astin and Sarah Wright. It revolves around two childhood friends who drag their straight-arrow buddy out to celebrate his 21st birthday the night before an all-important medical school interview, and the evening spirals out of control. Sky Land, a fully funded production/distribution/financing entity, is a partnership with Relativity, SAIF Partners and IDG China Media that was formed in August to “create movies which will be appealing to both Chinese and western audiences alike.” It also formed an alliance with the Chinese government-sanctioned Huaxia Film Distribution Company, making it easier to navigate the often difficult bureaucratic path for foreign entertainment companies. Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman and producing 21 And Over with SAIF’s Andy Yan and IDG’s Hugo Shong, in association with Richard Branson’s Virgin Produced. Some shooting already has been completed in Seattle.
Yet another case of Hollywood hopping on the China film market bandwagon. Here is the announcement Monday Beijing time: Huaxia Film Distribution Co, Relativity Media, and SkyLand (Beijing) Film-Television Culture Development Ltd jointly announced a strategic partnership. Huaxia Film’s Executive Chairman Guoqing Gu, Relativity Media’s founder and CEO Ryan Kavanaugh, SAIF Partners’ Managing Partner Andy Yan, and IDG China Media’s Founding Partner Hugo Shong attended the press conference. Three parties — Relativity, SAIF, and IDG – also announced the formation of the first China/U.S. distribution company Sky Land Entertainment. Huaxia is one of the biggest movie production and distribution companies in China, releasing more films there than almost any other company. Sky Land has been prominent in the production, financing and distribution of Chinese content films in the past few years.
Said Kavanaugh: ”We’re excited to be entering into this ground breaking partnership. With 6 new screens added daily in China and a business which has been tripling in revenue every 3 years,