Signaling a concerted push into China, Universal Pictures and Comcast brass gathered at an opening ceremony for the studio’s new Beijing office today. On hand were representatives from the Chinese film industry as well as Comcast Chairman and CEO, Brian Roberts; Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment, Jeff Shell; President of Distribution for Universal Pictures International, Duncan Clark; and the newly appointed EVP and Managing Director of China for UPI, Jo Yan.
Universal says the establishment of UPI China, which was originally mooted one year ago, is proof of the studio’s commitment to investment in the region. Universal has plans to build a 300-acre theme park in Beijing and is ramping up its local television and consumer products business as well as content production partnerships and acquisitions. Due for release later this week in China is kung-fu action pic Rise Of The Legend which UPI is co-producing with Edko Films and Irresistible Films. Roy Chow directs the origin story of martial arts icon Wong Fei Hung with Peng Yuyan and Sammo Hung starring. Universal has all international rights excluding Asia.
Key Middle Kingdom theatrical successes for Universal’s Hollywood titles in the past year or so have included Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2 which grossed $66.5M and $53M respectively. Although the original Despicable Me was not released in China, the Minions have become increasingly popular following a big marketing campaign during DM2‘s run.
Shell said the studio is “confident that Universal has the right kind of film slates for China and now that we have Jo and his team in place, we’re looking forward to seizing the enormous potential in the Chinese marketplace.”
Films on Universal’s upcoming slate that look primed for the Middle Kingdom include Jurassic World 3D which will be released two years after Jurassic Park 3D debuted in China to gross $57M. The Minions are starring in their own movie next year, and Furious 7 is also a 2015 tentpole that’s eyeing an April 2015 China bow. Based on comments made at the ceremony, Universal is also looking at an early 2015 China release for Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and a late 2015 slot for Working Title’s adventure pic Everest.