Huahua Media, which burst onto the China movie scene waving big checks, sells a majority stake for relative small change.
Six months is apparently a lifetime in the China movie business. It was just back in January that Huahua Media announced it was teaming up with Shanghai Film Group to invest $1 billion in Paramount Pictures’ 2017 slate, marking another big investment in Hollywood by a Chinese company. Two months later, it was announced that the deal had failed.
On Monday, just barely over six months after the original deal, it was announced that Huahua Media had sold a 51 percent stake to Oriental Times Media Corp. for 280 million yuan ($40.6 million), raising a few questions in the process, including where exactly the billion dollars was going to come from. Huahua did not respond to a request from China Film Insider for confirmation and comment.
In 2014, Huahua originally captured industry attention when it became the exclusive China marketing partner for Transformers: Age of Extinction. The planned Paramount investment was scaled down to become a 30 percent production cost investment for some of Paramount’s films over three years, according to Variety.
The buyer, Oriental Times Media, which is moving into film and television production from its background in digital instrument manufacturing, is also buying a minority, 40-percent stake in TV producer Yuan Chun Media for 264 million yuan ($38.3 million), according to Variety.
“Our vision for the company is to bring the best filmmaking to China, and we often look to Hollywood and other foreign film markets,” Huahua Media CEO Wang Kefei told China Film Insider in a January telephone interview. “We found a great partner in Paramount and we are massively interested in their titles and their upcoming slate. So it’s a very big cultural interest [for us].”
Age of Extinction went on to become China’s all-time box office champion until it was overtaken in 2016 by The Mermaid.
In the heady days of January this year, Dalian Wanda was buying Dick Clark Productions for $1 billion, Huahua and SMG were plunking down another $1 billion for the Paramount slate, and other nine-figure deals were in the offing. Now most are just off, with Wanda, run by Wang Jianlin, one of China’s richest men, unable to complete a slew of international deals.