Alibaba Pictures has unveiled the development and production pipeline it hopes will establish it as a major player in the Chinese film biz and beyond. Announced at the Born to be Different strategic conference in Shanghai, Alibaba Pictures’ production slate includes 17 features. Among the titles planned are Storming 30 Years, Zhengtu, No Other Love, and two TV programs, Ge Jin Tao Hua and The legend of Zu 2. Other projects include Sword of Legends 2, Three Lives Three Worlds Ten Miles of Peach Blossom, Asura, as well as Qi Huan Zhi Lv and Qing He Male College.
These announcements come a day after Alibaba Pictures confirmed Renny Harlin would be directing Legend of the Ancient Sword for the company.
Alibaba Pictures also announced a raft of new partnerships as it intends to turn its online dominance into a creative ecosystem for its collaborations to thrive. Alibaba Pictures already has ample capital, in addition to a wealth of user and consumption data. It has developed its own Internet-based promotion and distribution system, as well as its investment and financing system. These all serve to spur Alibaba Picture’s content development and production.
The partners announced by Alibaba Pictures range from well-established movie production houses, up-and-coming companies with strong capabilities, to stars of tomorrow who possess tremendous potential. The list includes HS Gala Pictures, Ruyi Films, Ningxia Film Group, Zhenjian Pictures, Filmko Pictures, Hehe Pictures, Cheng Xiang Films, Black Ant Flim, Straw Bear Film Production, Phoenix Legend Films and Sun Entertainment Culture, as well as GiantInteractive Group and Blue Lion from the Internet and cultural sectors.
Alibaba Pictures was borne out of the acquisition of a majority 60% stake by online retail giant Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group in March 2014 for $800 million as the e-commerce entrepreneur sought to add as much value to his group as possible ahead of the ultimately blockbusting IPO last September. The newly monikered company has gradually been working towards expanding its operations since its launch. In January last year, it announced it had brought on-board celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (In The Mood For Love) to produce its first film Bai Du Ren, written and directed by Zhang Jiajia and starring Wong Kar Wai regular Tony Leung (2046).
In March last year, Ma announced Alibaba had also acquired an 8.8% stake in Enlight, one of China’s leading film and TV production companies, valued at $380 million. Shares in Alibaba Pictures soared after its parent company — at one point valued at more than Walmart — announced it was considering an asset injection in the film unit and that it was planning to fold its online movie-ticketing business as well as its movie production crowdfunding business into Alibaba Pictures.
Alibaba Pictures has also been ramping up its investments in Hollywood content. Its first English language investment was Paramount’s Tom Cruise secret agent pic Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. 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 production arm of Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant has also announced plans for a partnership on an unspecified film from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).
Those deals came 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.
“The spirit of the Internet encompasses openness, freedom, collaboration and sharing,” said Alibaba Pictures CEO Zhang Qiang. “As a company committed to creating an integrated platform for the entertainment industry value chain, Alibaba Pictures hopes to become the platform which links up various resources and runs on the basis of Internet techniques and models, to increase efficiency and reduce risks in the research and production of movies. At the same time, the Company aims to better serve both up- and down-stream partners in the movie and television entertainment industry, so as to create a healthy ecosystem for the sector, attracting more corporates and talent to participate.”