EXCLUSIVE: Joe and Anthony Russo, who follow Captain America: Civil War with back-to-back sequels to The Avengers, are in negotiations to strike a substantial production partnership with China-based Huayi Brothers Media Corporation. The goal here is to hatch a full-service production and financing company to ramp up after The Avengers sequels and create English-language content for global distribution. The new company will aim to develop high-concept material that focuses on storytelling and strong characters.
Huayi Brothers, a publicly traded company in China, disclosed the new venture today and gave a picture of the ambition to its shareholders. It disclosed that Huayi will contribute $250 million for operation, overhead, production development and IP acquisition in mainstream global English-language, franchise tentpole films to be distributed worldwide. It will commit $100 million in production funding as well. Huayi Brothers will have distribution rights in Greater China and South East Asia (including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc), and has the right to exploit theme park construction, development and operation based on Russo-generated projects. There also will be investments in television productions, which makes sense given the Russos’ strong background in series including Arrested Development, Community and Happy Endings. They won an Emmy for directing the pilot of Arrested Development.
In short, Huayi Brothers, which Dennis Wang and James Wang have grown into the largest Chinese company whose concerns are all entertainment (film, TV, gaming, animation, location-based entertainment), is making the Russo brothers the drivers of its global IP expansion beyond China.
The Russos will fold their Getaway Productions banner into the new production entity umbrella, In the new venture, it is envisioned they will produce projects and direct some of the films. They will have strong creative involvement in what is envisioned as character-driven, large-canvas movies. The deal still is being negotiated and will build slowly as the Russos will be busy for the next two years on The Avengers films. They are about the biggest Hollywood films in the works right now, this side of the Avatar sequels and Star Wars films and spinoffs.
The Russos have a Chinese studio, Anthem and Song, but that is a separate entity from the new deal. It is a good time from the siblings from Cleveland, whose second Captain America film for Marvel Studios and Disney became the fifth-highest-grossing domestic release ever. It also grossed just under $200 million in China. The Avengers films — the first is titled The Avengers: Infinity War — are set for release May 2018 and May 2019. The Russo brothers are also producers on STX Entertainment’s 17 Bridges, Fox’s Sex Castle and Fox 2000’s Space Runner, and they joined Creed‘s Michael B. Jordan as producers on MGM’s planned remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. They recently announced a TV series based on the classic Walter Hill-directed pic The Warriors, which will be a Paramount Television Production, also in association with Getaway Productions.