Busy Alibaba Pictures Group has made an undisclosed strategic investment in Hehe Pictures Corporation. When the deal closes, Alibaba will hold a 30% stake in the Chinese film investment company, becoming Hehe’s second largest shareholder. Established in 2013, Hehe began focusing on film investment, distribution, management and other fields this year. As of October, it has invested in and managed movie projects that have grossed nearly RMB 4.8BB ($695M) in box office. They include China’s biggest film of all time, The Mermaid, along with such hits as Chongqing Hot Pot and Jackie Chan-starrer Skiptrace.
The partners were already in bed via Hehe’s participation in the Series A financing of Alibaba Pictures’ online movie ticketing platform Tao Piaopiao in May this year. Under the new deal, both parties will cooperate extensively in their current film production projects, as well as in film promotion and distribution. Two Alibaba representatives will join Hehe’s board of directors.
This marks yet another move into the film business by Alibaba Pictures Group, the entertainment arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba. It has made a steady series of investments in films from Paramount including Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and Star Trek Beyond. In October this year, it took a minority equity stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners to co-produce and finance films for global and Chinese audiences. Most recently, it joined forces with Harry Potter producer David Heyman on Warriors, a live-action film based on the hit series of young adult novels following four clans of warring feral cats. The project is currently seeking writers.
The tie-up with Hehe will see Alibaba involved with a company that invests in film projects through trust funds. It has a slate of more than 20 movies under its Hehe Dynamic Movie List plan, and is looking to step up its investment in content production. Hehe also has relationships with such directors such as Steven Chow, Jiang Wen, Wong Kar-wai and Cao Baoping.