BREAKING: Sirena Liu has been hired by Twentieth Century Fox to the newly created position of Managing Director, China. She most recently ran entertainment marketing company FilMworks China, which she founded in 2010 and sold two years later to global advertising conglomerate WPP. She will be based in China and will supervise the studio’s Beijing office. She begins her position on October 5th. The announcement was just made by Fox Chairman and CEO, Jim Gianopulos, to whom she will report.
The post is a significant one in a country that all of Hollywood is buddying up to now. In fact, the announcement comes on the heels of last month’s meeting between News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. It’s no secret that the company has been looking at the possibility of building a theme park in the country.
Liu will not only be responsible for the studio’s activities in all media in China, but she will work directly with 20th Century Fox Co-Chairman Stacey Snider on Fox’s film productions in China under the Fox International Pictures banner, led by Tomas Jegeus.
In addition, Liu will work closely with Fox’s distribution units, including Theatrical, Home Entertainment, Television and Digital Media, to coordinate all their activities in China.
“With the hiring of Sirena, we are looking to unify our business interests in China under a common vision and strategy, to enhance our relationships with local partners, government regulators and emerging platforms, and to identify and pursue new growth opportunities,” Gianopulos said in a statement.
China’s box office, which has been growing steadily at a rate of around 30%, is a $5B business. The country has over 18,000 screens and has 1.3 billion people. Chinese companies, have themselves, reached out to entertainment companies for various deals — whether it be Huayi Brothers and Hony Capital with STX or Fosun with Studio 8. In addition, Wanda, Le Vision, Bona and Fundamental have all come into the game in a big way, either through joint ventures or having launched their own U.S.-based entities.
In May 2012, Fox parent News Corp. acquired a 19.9% stake in China’s Bona as part of a concerted drive into China. In 2014, Bona’s chairman and CEO, Yu Dong, announced it had planned many co-productions to come from the partnership between the two companies. Only weeks later, it was announced that Fosun would be buying out Fox’s stake, even though it was stressed that the move would not affect five Fox-Bona co-productions agreed between the two companies.
As President of FilMworks China, Liu ran all facets of marketing, including product placement, film tie-in promotions, licensing and merchandising as well as celebrity endorsements. Through that company, she got to know executives at all the major Hollywood studios and independent production companies as they collaborated on promotional partnerships for films and Chinese brands.
She has overseen partnerships for such films as Transformers 2, 3 and 4, Kung Fu Panda 2, Ice Age 4, Fast and Furious 6, Furious 7, Minions and Superman: Man of Steel, to name a few.
Liu also served as the Director of Strategic Development for Orange Sky Golden Harvest Entertainment, a public listed Chinese entertainment company engaged in film financing, production, distribution and exhibition.
And for three years, beginning in 2006 she created, planned and implemented Orange Sky’s corporate strategy. She sought project-financing opportunities, including film co-productions for Orange Sky’s film division as well as investments in the company’s theater chains.
At Orange Sky, she was also responsible for identifying projects for production opportunities. She spearheaded the film project Red Cliff, from director John Woo.
Before that, she was Director of Business Development for Beijing-based SEEC Media Group, an international publishing house, which established Chinese editions of such magazines as Sports Illustrated and Better Homes and Gardens, among others.
She began her career working for Columbia Pictures in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where she was involved in such films as Ultraviolet and Kung Fu Hustle.