Talks are ongoing between former Warner Bros Motion Picture Group President Jeff Robinov and numerous investors, including Beijing-based Huayi Brothers Media Corp, sources said late Thursday, despite published reports to the contrary. A total of three Chinese companies are in discussions to finance Robinov’s new company — Studio 8 — including Fosun International (which, since it is not a distribution company, probably would be an equity investor) and Huayi, but nothing is set in stone yet. There also are talks with other possible partners as well. If financing comes together, Robinov’s new company will be set up at Sony Pictures Entertainment, where studio execs are awaiting word on the outcome of the talks. Robinov’s company would be a shot in the arm for Sony as he has a proven and impressive track record for choosing and championing smart, commercial material (the multiple-Oscar-winning Gravity and The Lego Movie) and rebooting stale franchises a la the Batman series with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Warner Bros still is reaping the benefits of the Robinov slate at the box office; for instance, The Lego Movie is one of the highest-grossing pics of 2014. The studio now is flagging a bit a year after the executive’s exit. He is well known for having established strong relationships with numerous top filmmakers and writers.
IM Global and China’s Huayi Brothers have partnered in a new output deal whereby IMG’s Anthem division will handle international sales on all of Huayi’s forthcoming Chinese language productions. Anthem will have world rights, excluding Greater China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. IM Global opened a Beijing office last summer with former Huayi Brothers exec Leslie Chen heading up the operation and has been digging deeper into China as it looks to gain a high profile foothold in the international sales of major Chinese films. Huayi already has several films on Anthem’s Cannes slate including romantic comedy Women Who Flirt starring Huang Xiaoming and Zhou Xun; A Tale Of Three Cities based on the life of Jackie Chan’s parents and starring Tang Wei and Sean Ching-Wan Lau; kidnapping drama Abducted with Andy Lau and Jing Boran; and high-tech romance Love On the Cloud, starring Angelababy and Chen He. The company is also launching sales in Cannes on big budget Jackie Chan-starrer Civilian, an English-language actioner to be directed by Peter Segal, and on director Lu Yang’s Chinese-language Brotherhood Of Blades starring Chang Chen, Liu Shishi, Nie Yuan, Wang Qianyuan and Li Dongxue, and produced by Terence Chang.
Ed Zwick To Direct Legendary East’s First Film ‘The Great Wall’; Marshall Herskovitz & Chuck Roven Also Attached
Legendary East To Raise $220.5M Through Hong Kong For Film Studio From China
BREAKING: Ed Zwick will direct The Great Wall, the first project for Legendary East, that Hong Kong-based stand-alone entertainment company that was started by Legendary Entertainment’s Thomas Tull with Asian partners. Zwick and his longtime partner Marshall Herskovitz will write the script based on a story about the mystery behind China’s greatest manmade structure as imagined by Legendary chairman Tull and World War Z author Max Brooks. Based in Hong Kong with Chinese management and international investors besides Tull, the new company wants to be positioned to produce content that is as commercially viable within China and the rest of the world. The Great Wall will be produced by Legendary’s Tull and Jon Jashni, as well as Atlas Entertainment’s Alex Gartner and Chuck Roven, who is a frequent producer on Legendary/Warner Bros films (currently in production on The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel), and Zwick and Herskovitz. The project will be distributed in China by Legendary East’s co-production partner, Huayi Brothers, while distribution in all other parts of the globe is anticipated to be handled by Warner Bros Pictures, which is Legendary Entertainment’s longtime partner on films.
UPDATE: The announcement was made today in Beijing by Tull and Huayi Brothers CEO Wang Zhongjun, and Huayi Brothers President, Wang Zhonglei. Legendary East’s films will be developed as co-productions with Huayi Brothers, who will distribute the movies in China. Distribution in all other parts of the globe is anticipated to be handled by Warner Bros Pictures, because of its longstanding relationship with Legendary Entertainment. Legendary East initially plans on producing one to two event-style films for worldwide audiences annually beginning in 2013.
The announcement also marks Legendary Entertainment’s formal entrance into the Chinese marketplace. According to Tull’s statement, Legendary East will be led by an experienced management team with significant experience working with Hollywood studios as well as with Western and Chinese entertainment companies. The Legendary East senior executive team will be comprised of Thomas Tull, Executive Chairman; Kelvin Wu, Chief Executive Officer; and Joel Chang, Chief Financial Officer.
Huayi Brothers Media alone contributed 30% of the domestic Chinese film box office in China in 2010 (17% of the overall domestic B.O.). Established in 1994, it is the leading integrated entertainment conglomerate in China and has produced 43 films since 1998. It successfully went public in Chinese A-share market in 2009, becoming the “first stock” of Chinese entertainment industry. Huayi Brothers has nine integrated branches including film, teleplay, artist agency, music, cinema, video game, entertainment marketing, cultural tourism and new media. But film remains its core business.
PREVIOUS: I’ve learned that Thomas Tull is in Beijing now to make the announcement of the new Hong Kong-based company, which will be a separate standalone venture from his U.S.-based Legendary Entertainment. The new company will produce English-language feature films and related content for a worldwide audience in conjunction with the Huayi Brothers who now become shareholders as well as local production and distribution partners. Legendary East Ltd will have Chinese management and international investors as well as Legendary Entertainment’s experience producing and financing films.