Back in May, News Corp announced a strategic investment in China’s Bona Film Group which gave it a 19.9% stake in the distributor. That deal did not include a production component, but today, Bona and News Corp.’s Fox International Productions have announced a multi-picture co-producing pact for Chinese-language films. FIP has already produced local-language pictures in China — and is very active in other international territories including Russia, Germany, Spain, Korea and India. Here’s the press release on today’s deal, which gives Fox deeper reach in a booming market:
FOX INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTIONS (FIP), a division of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, and BONA FILM GROUP LTD. (Nasdaq:BONA), one of China’s largest motion picture producers and distributors, today announced a multi-picture deal in which the two companies will together produce Chinese language films.
Under the agreement, the two companies will develop, produce and distribute films throughout China.
“This is a significant step in what we believe will be a long-term, multi-faceted collaboration with News Corp. and its subsidiary companies,” said Mr. Dong Yu, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Bona Film Group Limited. “The films released under this partnership will combine Bona’s deep understanding of production, distribution and audience preferences in China with FIP’s international expertise to create movies that satisfy audiences’ growing demand for blockbuster characteristics. We look forward to the cooperation and anticipated opportunities with FIP.”
The announcement follows an agreement forged earlier this year by which Bona secured a strategic investment from News Corporation (Nasdaq:NWS); (Nasdaq:NWSA); (ASX:NWS), (ASX:NWSLV), the parent company of 20th Century Fox Film. Under that investment agreement, News Corp. acquired a 19.9% equity stake in Bona directly from Mr. Yu, which enabled News Corp. to gain a strategic advantage in China’s burgeoning film industry. The new partnership between Fox International Productions and Bona furthers that relationship and enhances Fox’s position in China.
Sanford Panitch, President of Fox International Productions, stated: “We continue to be excited about the opportunities in the world’s fastest growing market. Mr. Yu’s vision for Bona combined with the company’s stature as one of the leading distributors makes for great opportunities to co-produce and co-distribute Fox International Productions films in China.”
Box office receipts in China increased nearly 30% in 2011 over 2010 to more than U.S. $2 billion, according to EntGroup, making China the world’s third largest film market behind the United States and Japan. Industry growth is expected to accelerate even further over the next several years, moving China into the number two slot in worldwide box office revenue.
According to China’sState Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the gross box office for the first half of 2012 totaled RMB 8.1 billion ($1.3 billion), up 41.7% from the same period in 2011, when the box office gross was RMB 5.7 billion ($904.5 million). (USD 1 = RMB 6.3).
As of the end of June 2012, China had over 3,000 cinemas with nearly 11,000 screens (including over 7,000+ 3D-capable screens) nationwide. More than 1,600 screens were added during the first six months of the year, with an average of nine screens built each day.