Huahua Media joins Shanghai Media Group in a US$1 billion investment in Paramount Pictures.
It was a surprise when in 2014 a Shanghai-based company called Huahua Media became the China marketing partner for Transformers: Age of Extinction. It was a surprise again when earlier this month the same company, along with Shanghai Film Group, put US$1 billion into Paramount, in the latest significant investment by a Chinese company in Hollywood.
This latest investment comes at a time when more Chinese moves are expected in Hollywood. In 2016, real estate developer and film Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. spent $3.5 billion buying Legendary Entertainment, and another $1 billion acquiring Dick Clark Productions. Another deal, with a Chinese mining firm buying smaller Voltage Pictures, maker of Academy Award-winner The Hurt Locker for $350 million, was later called off. Paramount turned down a Wanda offer to buy 49 percent of the company.
“Our vision for the company is to bring the best filmmaking to China, and we often look to Hollywood and other foreign film markets. 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],” Huahua Media CEO Wang Kefei told China Film Insider in a telephone interview.
Age of Extinction went on to become China’s all-time box office champion until it was overtaken in 2016 by The Mermaid. Huahua announced a similar marketing deal with Paramount for Transformers: The Last Knight, due out June 23, 2017 in North America. A China release date has not yet been confirmed.
Huahua has also participated in Allied, released in China in December, along with Star Trek Beyond, and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, both released in China in 2016. Wang said the company chose to deepen its relationship with Paramount on the strength of projects such as those.
“We had some cooperation with other companies such as Dreamworks and Sony Pictures. Paramount at this time has the history, Chinese people know their films from over the years, and we think we can develop side by side with them. It’s a combination of our investments and our work together, and also because [Shanghai Film Group board member] Kenneth Huang, who had been a director at CMM Film Group, had made the introduction to make this deal to happen,” Wang said.
For Paramount’s upcoming slate, Wang said, “We will be generally involved in their entire slate for the year. They will come to us with cultural questions and for the China market in general for each film.
Huahua and Shanghai Film Group will establish and share an office on the Paramount lot.
“It was a very organic choice to work with Shanghai Film Group. They have a very large movie chain, are major distributor in China, and have worked with co-productions in China on a large scale. They were also one of the first collaborators for IMAX and IMAX movies in China,” Wang said.