The UK’s Pinewood Shepperton is the latest Western outfit to hook up with Chinese media mogul Bruno Wu via a joint-venture to finance and produce content in China for the global market. The 50/50 partnership with Wu’s Seven Stars Media Limited will be called Song Lin (Pinewood in Chinese) with each side initially putting up $1M for R&D on local business proposals. Those include co-production opportunities; training courses to be given by British institutions in Beijing and other cities; financing and related services for local productions; film-themed entertainment venues in Shanghai and regionally; and film-themed projects in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan. A UK chairman will be appointed.
This is the most recent announcement involving Wu in what’s been a busy 14 months. In February 2012, he burst onto Hollywood’s radar with plans for an $800M media and investment fund and subsequently formed a joint-venture with Fast Five helmer Justin Lin for a slate of films. He also outlined plans to build entertainment and media hub Chinawood in Tianjin with an investment of over $1.27B. Wu was then in Cannes to say he would back the John H. Lee remake of John Woo’s The Killer and in December hooked up with Avi Arad’s Arad Productions to develop superhero franchise properties inspired by Chinese history and mythology, starting with Rise Of The Terracotta Warriors. Those films along with Gong Li-starrer The Last Empress are in development.
Some industry insiders both in China and in Hollywood have been skeptical of Wu and his ambitious announcements, which so far don’t appear to have produced much tangible output. However, he is understood to be “incredibly well-connected politically” which foreigners believe cannot hurt in a territory like China, where the government retains a tight grip on the media. He’s also an enthusiastic and smart guy who speaks English and French fluently and who assured me last year he had access to plenty of cash. The Pinewood deal, given its low-level initial investment and the fact that the UK is closer to signing a co-production treaty with China, looks like it could bear fruit in the short term. The film and TV courses are understood to be at an advanced stage and could be finalized within days, I’m told. Pinewood is bullish on the business proposals, believing that most, if not all, will come to fruition.
Prime Minister David Cameron thinks so anyway. In a statement today, he said, “It’s great to see Pinewood Studios expanding its business with the announcement of its joint venture with Seven Stars Media. The creative industries are a rapidly growing area of China’s economy and will increasingly provide huge opportunities for UK companies competing in the global race. Pinewood is leading the way, taking advantage of China’s thriving entertainment and media sector and building on Britain and China’s growing trade relationship.”