UPDATED, Wednesday 8:25 PM: The first project from Studio 8 should be announced in four to six weeks, with preproduction starting between January and March, Jeff Robinov said at a news conference tonight on the Sony lot in Culver City. Plans call for two movies the first year, four in the second and six in each of the next three, with budgets ranging from $45 million to $100 million-plus. In the meantime, he is staffing up the new company with 14-16 people including development executives, CFO, controller, in-house legal, physical production execs and assistants
Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Sony Motion Pictures Group chairman Amy Pascal also were at the press conference that gave journalists an opportunity to meet Guo Guangchang, chairman of Shanghai-based Fosun International, which is taking an investment stake in the Sony-based Studio 8.
Through an interpreter, Guo said of Robinov: “We met three months ago, and I figured out that all the movies he made were my favorite movies.” When asked what his favorite movie was, he joked, “Inception, though it was really hard to understand.”
He said of the meeting with Robinov: “We fell in love at first sight, and we discussed things for two hours. ” Fosun is the the largest privately-owned conglomerate in mainland China. “We always look at long-term investments, and we’re also partners with Sony. We invest in the experts in this industry,” he said, saying that is Fosun’s philosophy and is why it made the investment (with Robinov).” Asked if they had any guarantees with distributors in China, Guo said the door has been opened more and more to Western product. He also was asked about Alibaba and other Chinese companies but said he didn’t feel comfortable talking on behalf of other Chinese companies.
Said Robinov: “We’re all in this together, and we’re totally incentivized to figure out how to make it work. I’m really excited about this. I’ve been doing it a long time.” Added Pascal: “All the movies we make are Sony movies and are equally Sony movies coming from one division. We’re going to treat all the movies equally.”
Studio 8 Deal Sealed With Sony
PREVIOUSLY, September 8: As expected, ex-Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group President Jeff Robinov and his new media company backed by China’s Fosun Group have officially set up shop with Sony. The studio will distribute up to six commercial features worldwide from Robinov’s Studio 8, excluding China, and is taking an investment stake in the company. With an expected $1 billion in overall financing the venture will develop, produce and acquire both potential tentpoles and prestige pictures from its home base on Sony’s Culver City lot.
Robinov will serve as CEO of Studio 8, which will finance 100% of its films. In addition to its feature slate Studio 8 will also develop TV and digital content for multi-platform distribution and look for brand-based properties to exploit including titles with Chinese elements. Shanghai-based Fosun, the largest privately-owned conglomerate in mainland China, will aid in expanding relationships within the local Chinese film industry. “Our partnership will combine the resources of China and Hollywood to build an open global platform not only focusing on movie and entertainment investments, but also eventually aiming to integrate our resources around the world,” Fosun Chairman Guo Guangchang said in a statement.
The deal should be a shot in the arm for Sony given Robinov’s proven and impressive track record for choosing and championing smart, commercial material (the multiple-Oscar-winning Gravity and The Lego Movie) and rebooting stale franchises a la the Batman series with Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Warner Bros still is reaping the benefits of the Robinov slate at the box office; for instance, The Lego Movie is one of the highest-grossing pics of 2014. The studio now is flagging a bit a year after the executive’s exit.