Cinedigm, after selling a majority of its equity last year to Hong Kong-based Bison Holding Co., has deepened its ties to the region by forming a strategic alliance with Chinese entertainment company Starrise Media Holdings.
The deal will cover theatrical and digital film releases in China and North America. The shared slate will include select theatrical titles but plans also call for the release of hundreds of films in the home entertainment marketplaces in China and North America, with an emphasis on digital. The two companies will also consider jointly backing Chinese-American co-produced films.
China’s movie marketplace is booming and, as Deadline recently reported, the surge will likely continue in 2018. Only a few dozen U.S.-produced films are allowed to be released there each year by the Chinese government, but they can pack a box-office punch, especially with the nation’s high rate of theater construction. Streaming is also on the rise. JPMorgan Chase recently projected the number of subscribers to streaming services in the country will reach 175 million, up from just 9.5 million in 2014 and on the way to 234 million in 2020.
Until last summer, Starrise was primarily a textile company. It jettisoned those assets and rebranded, making the Cinedigm partnership a logical fit. Run by former Hollywood studio exec Chris McGurk, Cinedigm has pivoted from its origins in projection technology to become a media outfit focused on film and episodic production as well as OTT streaming.
While feature films will be the initial focus of the alliance, television and short-form content as well as new OTT channel deployments with other key partners in China and in North America could be added to the mix. Cinedigm already operates four OTT channels, including Docurama and CONtv, which covers Comic Con gatherings around the country.
“This deal with Starrise is an important step in implementing our plan to become the first true China/North American studio,” McGurk said, “strongly and uniquely positioned for high quality content distribution and OTT channels and services in both hugely important territories. We believe Starrise, under the strong and experienced leadership of Hanks He, is the perfect partner for our initial expansion into China and for implementing other important entertainment initiatives there in the future.”
Hanks He, executive director of Starrise Media, said Cinedigm’s “unique position in the entertainment marketplace as the leader in independent content distribution, coupled with their significant experience in OTT channels and digital aggregation, serve as the perfect complement to our strengths in premium content production and distribution in China.”
Chun Chen, who recently joined Cinedigm as its China Representative and is based there, will help coordinate the activities of the two companies.