BREAKING: Thomas Tull’s Legendary East said that China Film Co Ltd. has made an eight-figure equity investment in two Legendary Entertainment pics: the Jeff Bridges starrer Seventh Son and Warcraft, the pic based on the Blizzard online game that Duncan Jones is writing and directing. It marks the first time China Film Co has taken a stake in Hollywood films, and if the pics are approved by China‘s government it will distribute them in the booming movie market with support via Legendary East and global distribution partner Universal.
China Film Co is majority-owned by China Film Group and is the largest producer and distributor of Chinese content — CFG has an exclusive grip on Mainland revenue-share releasing. There has been talk that a new government-approved distributor could emerge, but a number of China-watchers are skeptical. Today’s deal stems from the multi-year agreement Legendary East and CFC inked in May 2013 to together produce tentpole-scale films for the global market. As part of the investment structure, CFC will be credited on these films, and its equity recouped, on a worldwide basis, the companies said. Today’s announcement was made by China Film Co chairman La Peikang and Legendary East CEO Peter Loehr.
BREAKING: Thomas Tull’s Legendary East and China Film Co have not announced a slate yet, but the agreement is to jointly produce tentpole films for the global market for an initial three years. China Film Co is the largest producer and distributor of Chinese content and is majority owned by state-run China Film Group. The deal signed today in Beijing marks the first time the entity has signed a long-term, multi-picture production deal with a Chinese or international partner. The pics will be U.S.-China co-productions.
This is essentially a reboot of Legendary East in China under CEO Peter Loehr after a couple of trial runs in the complicated but coveted territory. China generated an estimated $2.7 billion in ticket sales in 2012, according to the MPAA, and recent efforts to court the market have come from major Hollywood hitters like Disney’s Iron Man 3, which co-produced there, and the upcoming Transformers 4. Said Loehr today in the release announcing the deal: “Partnering with China Film Co allows us to collaborate on projects from the earliest stages, and create true co-productions with unique worlds, elements and stories that universally speak to audiences”.
Among Legendary’s previous tip-toeing into the China market was The Great Wall, originally on track to shoot last year in China and New Zealand. It’s understood that the project, which saw director Ed Zwick depart last fall from a cast that had assembled Henry Cavill and Benjaman Walker, is not part of the new Legendary East-China Film Co slate and remains in development. Read More »
Rumors have been racing this weekend that The Great Wall might be crumbling but I’m told that is not the case. In fact, casting on the film continues with Zhang Ziyi (pictured) and other Chinese talent is also being courted for the film.
The issue is weather. The film will shoot in locations in China and New Zealand, and logistically it will be easier to do this in the spring than if the picture keeps its fall start date. Insiders tell me the film will happen, even though a domestic distributor hasn’t yet been secured. It is meant to be the first major film to kick off Legendary East, and with every studio looking for opportunities to make films in China, the project certainly seems viable.
Set in 15th century China, The Great Wall is about British warriors who happen upon the hurried construction of the massive wall. As night falls, the warriors realize that the haste in building the wall isn’t just to keep out the Mongols — there is something inhuman and more dangerous. The picture is based on an idea by … Read More »
Peter Loehr today sent out an email with his new Legendary East contact information and his new title as CEO. But there has been no Legendary East announcement, which indicates to me that this deal is imminent but not yet done. Interesting timing for Loehr considering the SEC’s interest in China and Hollywood. Deadline first announced back in March he was leaving CAA’s Beijing office and that there were talks between Loehr and Chinese entrepreneur Bruno Wu’s new film fund which is being advised by CAA. The agency really wanted Loehr to take that job. But then Deadline scooped how Legendary Entertainment’s Thomas Tull made Loehr an offer he coudn’t refuse. Tull is about to relaunch Legendary East with a new structure and new financing after its proposed partner Paul Y Engineering put its $220.5 million investment in the venture on hold in late December 2011.
Loehr had been head of CAA’s Beijing office since it opened in 2005. Though extremely controversial, Loehr is an experienced film guy who lives in China and has been part of the production community for a long time. Loehr established the country’s first independent film studio, Imar Film, in 1997, before opening CAA’s China outpost. How the SEC probe will affect China shaping up as a major way of expanding international box office is anybody’s guess, particularly after the country agreed to loosen the number of movie imports permitted to play in China where theaters are cropping up like crazy.
EXCLUSIVE: Peter Loehr is in demand after Deadline first announced he’s leaving CAA’s Beijing office. Last week we reported that Loehr might be joining Bruno Wu’s new $800M film fund and that’s still possible. But the newest development is that Thomas Tull has made Loehr an offer to run Legendary East. Loehr had been head of CAA’s Beijing office since it opened in 2005. He has been in talks to join Bruno Wu, the Chinese entrepreneur who last month unveiled a plan to raise $800 million in equity financing to make English-language pictures under the banner of the Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund. The fund is being advised by CAA and I hear the agency really wants Loehr to take the job. Meanwhile, Thomas Tull who runs Legendary Pictures is about to relaunch Legendary East with a new structure and new financing after its proposed partner Paul Y Engineering put its $220.5 million investment in the venture on hold in late December 2011. No deal is yet in place for Loehr, who is in demand because he’s a rarity: an experienced film guy who lives in China and has been part of the production community for a long time. Loehr established the country’s first independent film studio, Imar Film, in 1997, before opening CAA’s China outpost. Read More »
Amid Hollywood’s efforts to push into China comes word of a Chinese investor group that’s “scouring” Hollywood for companies to buy. After holding preliminary talks with Summit prior to its acquisition by Lionsgate, a consortium led by Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu is said to be eyeing an even bigger target. While The Financial Times reports that Wu, Harvest Global Investment and Pacific Alliance Group are understood to be keen to explore options with Miramax and have Lionsgate in their sights, I’m hearing that Wu and his partners – be they Harvest Global and Pacific Alliance or others – could also make a deal that heads from west to east. (It’s also worth noting that Canada’s Alliance Films is currently on the block while Entertainment One is considering its strategic options.) A desire to move into Hollywood on the part of the deep-pocketed Chinese doesn’t come as a shock, especially with Chinese consumers’ increasing appetite for entertainment. The box office surged 30% in 2011 and the industry has a continuing need for content while money men see an opportunity in the lucrative market. Of course, Hollywood has also been making inroads into China recently. I’m hearing that investors are circling Thomas Tull’s Legendary East now that Huayi Brothers Media is no longer in the equation. A reboot of Legendary East’s placing exercise could come in the near future. Relativity also pacted last year to create China/U.S. distribution entity Sky … Read More »
UPDATE: Legendary East released the following statement: “The goal is to relaunch a placing exercise in 2012. Legendary East will issue a formal announcement when the new structure and transaction is solidified.”
PREVIOUS: Legendary East’s proposed partner Paul Y Engineering has put its $220.5 million investment in the venture on hold. The Hong Kong construction company said it had been unable to raise the necessary funds in a share sale to investors ahead of the year-end deadline. PYE chairman Ir James Chiu maintained that the placement had received “a positive and substantial response,” but said “we anticipate that under the current difficult environment of the capital markets the placing will not be able to close before the long stop date, being 31 December 2011.” Thomas Tull unveiled Legendary East in June in partnership with China’s Huayi Brothers and with plans to co-produce English-language features and related content for a worldwide audience. In August, publicly-traded PYE emerged as an investor saying it would raise the $220.5 million by issuing new shares in Hong Kong. Under that deal, PYE was to have owned 50% of Legendary East. PYE says it hasn’t entirely thrown in the towel, however, indicating in a press release that the joint venture parties may continue to discuss options to modify the structure of the deal and relaunch a placement in 2012. In August it was announced that Ed Zwick’s The Great Wall would be the first film under the Legendary East banner. Below is the PYE release.
PYI and Paul Y. Engineering Announce Lapse of Film Joint Venture Investment
(29 December 2011, Hong Kong) – Bulk cargo port and infrastructure group PYI Corporation Limited (“PYI”, 0498.HK) and its subsidiary, Paul Y. Engineering Group Limited (“PYE”, 0577.HK) announced the Independent Placing Agreement, the AID Subscription Agreement and the Legendary East Subscription Agreement, each as entered into by PYE, will lapse or be terminated with effect from the long stop date of 31 December 2011. Accordingly, the Distribution in Specie (or the Cash Alternative) and the Cash Dividend (or the Scrip Alternative) will no longer proceed as they are conditional on completion of the Placing on or before 31 December 2011.
PYE will remain in its present form and its shares should trade on the same basis as they did prior to the joint announcement dated 21 August 2011. PYE will not, at this stage, be investing any cash in Legendary East Ltd. (“Legendary East”) However, some or all of the parties to the Joint Venture Agreements may continue, in the near term, to discuss potential changes to the transaction structure with a view to agreeing upon prospective terms for a modified film joint venture, with the goal of relaunching a placing exercise in 2012. Both PYE and PYI will make further announcements if such changes are agreed and will likely seek fresh approvals from their respective shareholders on any new transactions.
EXCLUSIVE: Bill Paxton is in talks to direct Kung Fu, a screen adaptation of the classic 1972 TV series that starred David Carradine. Paxton, who’s coming off a run in the HBO series Big Love, gets the job after helming two solid films: Frailty and The Greatest Game Ever Played. John McLaughlin will write the script. The film’s being put together under the Legendary Entertainment banner to shoot partly in China next summer. It is possible that this will come under Legendary East, the Hong Kong-based joint venture that involves Thomas Tull’s Legendary, but insiders said that hasn’t happened to this point.
The original series tracked the adventures of a Shaolin monk as he wanders the American West. The monk wants peace but usually winds up using his spectacular martial arts skills to kick some serious tail, in between flashbacks of his early life in the monastery. Below is a reminder of the show.
DreamWorks Animation has agreed to a deal with leading Chinese Web TV company Youku.com that will see the studio’s Kung Fu Panda films debut on the site’s premium on-demand platform and then become available on its Hollywood Movie Channel after the pay window closes. The companies, who made the announcement today, said it is the first online distribution agreement for DWA films in China, where the first movie in the franchise was the No. 1 animated film in the market in 2008 and the second film last year became the fastest in history to pass 100 million yuan. The films, which were distributed by Paramount, are set in China, and DWA animators visited there to get inspiration for the movies’ environments, which take off on the nation’s traditional art and architecture.
DWA becomes the latest U.S. studio to take a crack at the enticing Chinese market. Earlier this month, Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment launched Hong Kong-based Legendary East, which will build a studio there and make movies with an eye on the China market; it’s first project is Ed Zwick’s The Great Wall. In addition, Relativity Media unveiled a strategic partnership with China’s Huaxia Film Distribution and SkyLand Film-Television Culture Development that includes forming the first U.S.-China distribution company.
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. Read More »
This announcement about another Hollywood-China deal was just posted to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange website in the past hour. It follows Legendary Entertainment’s June news that it formed Legendary East, a stand-alone entertainment company creating feature film and related content for a worldwide audience. Legendary East is based in Hong Kong, with Chinese management and international investors as well as Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment. Today, Legendary East announced the investment vehicle to inject $220.5M of cash from Paul Y Engineering Group Ltd by issuing new shares on the Hong Kong stock market. The investment would allow Legendary East to become a fully funded studio operating from China. ”A key feature of this structure is that it provides liquidity for those investors in Legendary East that are investing through PYE because PYE’s shares are publicly traded on the HKSE,” an insider emails me. Legendary East is led by CEO Kelvin Wu and Tull, its chairman who is also chairman/CEO of Legendary Entertainment. As previously announced, China media conglomerate Huayi Media will take a key role as local Chinese production and distribution partner and investor in Legendary East. Here’s today’s release: Read More »
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. Read More »