China’s Alibaba Pictures is reteaming with Paramount via investments in two of the studio’s summer tentpole films — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows and Star Trek Beyond. The deal marks the second such with Paramount, following the companies’ partnership on last year’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Along with Alibaba’s undisclosed investment, its subsidiaries Taobao Movie and Yulebao will provide service and support to the two films. Out Of The Shadows, in which Wanda is also an investor, and Beyond are expected in the Middle Kingdom in the second half of 2016.
The production arm of Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant also used the Beijing International Film Festival this weekend as a platform to announce plans for a partnership on an unspecified film from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).
The trio of deals comes shortly after Alibaba Pictures said it would team with Skydance (which also had a hand in M:I5 and is in Star Trek Beyond) on The Flying Tigers, a film about the volunteer group of U.S. Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines that defended China against Japanese forces before America entered World War II. Further setting its sights beyond China, Alibaba also previously set a deal for Korean action title, Real.
Alibaba Pictures President Zhang Wei said in Beijing, “We had a great experience working with Paramount on Mission: Impossible, and are very excited to join forces again for these two pictures, both of which have terrific fan bases in China that we hope to cooperate with Paramount to grow even larger.” Alibaba has been touted as one of the possible companies vying for the minority stake that Paramount is selling; the outcome of that bid is expected by the end of June.
The film investments are all part of Alibaba’s strategy to look towards the global market where purely Chinese movies have found difficulty breaking through. M:I5 grossed $682M worldwide, with about $136M coming from the Middle Kingdom. That made it the top Hollywood 2D grosser ever in the PROC, although some industry watchers felt it actually underperformed in the market as Alibaba was beginning to learn the ropes. The company recently said the film contributed revenue and profit of $10.6M and $1.1M, respectively, to its 2015 bottom line.
The last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pic in 2014 was a local hit for Par with $63M in China. Star Trek Into Darkness made $57M there the year prior. TMNT: Out Of The Shadows begins international rollout in late May and thus could squeak into the PROC ahead of the unofficial July blackout. Star Trek Beyond, however, is dated throughout July so it could end up with a late summer date. Last year, Par’s Terminator: Genisys was the first Hollywood film let into the Middle Kingdom post-blackout when it debuted on August 23. M:I5 followed in a crowded early September.