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.
“Legendary East will be uniquely positioned to produce content for the global market which draws on its deep Chinese ties,” a statement said today. “Legendary East is the vision of Legendary Entertainment’s Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, who along with Chinese born Hong Kong media and finance entrepreneur Kelvin Wu, created the venture. Legendary East’s local co-production and distribution partner is its strategic shareholder – Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, a leading Chinese film conglomerate.”
“China is one of the most important economic and culturally significant areas in the world, and we are deeply honored to establish a base in this region to create entertainment that is globally appealing in quality, scale and impact,” Tull said in a statement from Beijing. “Legendary Entertainment is committed to building a long-term presence in China and the surrounding region by becoming part of both the rapidly growing world-class filmmaking community and its media and business economy. Our newly announced production and distribution partnership with Huayi Brothers in China, coupled with Legendary East’s management team lead by Kelvin Wu, positions us well in our pursuit of these goals.”
Commented Huayi Brothers president Zhonglei: “As the rapid growth of the Chinese film market has attracted more and more attention and participation from filmmakers around the world, Huayi Brothers is very fortunate to be an active participant in this global trend and to witness China becoming the 2nd largest market for film by 2012. We have never stopped exploring any possibility that can enhance us to break into the global market. I am glad that I have found Legendary to be my comrade. We sincerely value this partnership and believe that this collaboration will not only produce countless fantastic films for our global audience; but simultaneously will allow the world to see China from a whole new perspective.”
Legendary East’s new CEO Wu said that, “Thanks to the rapid growth of the Chinese film market, Hong Kong has been regaining its momentum to become eminent in film production. With the support from Legendary Entertainment, we are excited to be a part of Legendary East and be in the forefront of bridging the creative with finance, and the East with the West.”
In the formation of Legendary East, Legendary Entertainment was advised by Goldman Sachs while Legendary East was advised by Centerview Partners LLC.
Legendary Entertainment is a leading media company with film, television and comics divisions. Besides developing projects in-house, it has co-produced more than 25 Warner Bros. films, including The Hangover Part II, which has been a box office smash grossing more than $823 million worldwide, as well as the global blockbusters Clash of the Titans ($493 million worldwide), The Dark Knight ($1 billion worldwide), The Hangover ($467 million worldwide), and 300 ($456 million worldwide).