TCB in RMB: Great Wall Buys Gu Changwei’s Premiere Age

Some big deals in film and television in our weekly wrap of China entertainment investment and M&A activity.

Great Wall buys Gu Changwei’s Premiere Age

Leading China TV drama producer Great Wall Movie And Television Co., Ltd. acquired a 100 percent stake in Premiere Age and film exhibitor Zhengjiang Tonight Film for RMB 1.9 billion ($279 million), according to a Great Wall’s filing.

Premiere Age is a family entertainment firm owned by Chinese director and cinematographer Gu Changwei and his family. Zhejiang Tonight Films operates five cinemas with 56 screens across China. By bringing Premiere Age and Tonight Film under its wing, Great Wall aims to expand to the film business.

As one of the most respected Chinese fifth generation filmmakers, Gu was regarded as the top cinematographer in Asia in his early days, serving as cinematographer on Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum in 1987 and Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine in 1992. Recently, Gu directed the commercial film Love on The Cloud, a romance starring Angelababy and Chen He. The film racked up RMB 286 million  ($42 million) in ticket receipts in 2014.

Youku sued LeTV over TV drama hit

A Beijing local court has officially accepted a lawsuit filed by Alibaba-owned video-streaming platform youku.com, seeking US$10 million in damages from LeTV for illegally showing Chinese drama “Love O2O” on its video platform letv.com.

Love O2O is a 30-episode romantic drama starring Zheng Shuang and Yang Yang. It garnered 20.4 billion total online views since it released last August. Youku claimed it bought the exclusive digital rights to the mega-hit, but saw the drama illegally appearing on letv.com recently.

LeTV is the video arm of China’s internet conglomerate LeEco, which is facing a recent cash crunch. Just two weeks ago, LeTV was sued by a Chinese advertising agency for missed payments of RMB 61.6 million ($9 million).

LeTV has 48 million monthly active users as of the end of 2016. Youku, by contrast, has 126 million monthly active users in the same period.

Paramount teams up with LeEco

LeTV also reportedly is investing RMB 15 million ($2.2million) to collaborate with Paramount Pictures for marketing activities and another $4 million for an advertising placement in Transformers: The Last Knight,  which is slated to release in China on June 23.

This is not the first time that LeTV sought product replacement in the Transformers series. In Transformers: Age of Extinction, a car topped with the trademark of LeTV drives along the streets in Hong Kong.

State-owned entertainment firm acquires TV show producer Shanghai Joy Media

This Thursday, Beijing Hualu Baina Film & TV Co., Ltd., a state-owned entertainment firm, announced a plan to buy Shanghai Joy Media, estimated to be worth RMB 2 billion ($293.7 million).

Founded in 2002 and listed in 2012, state-owned Hualu Baina co-produced The Founding of a Republic in 2009. Shanghai Joy Media, founded in 1999, is one of China’s leading TV drama and variety show producers.

Confident about its TV show business, Joy Media has been trying to get into the film business in recent years. But Joy Media hasn’t found pure joy in China’s film market — its 2017 film Top Funny Comedian: The Movie, which featured Rowan Atkinson reprising his Mr. Bean character, only grossed RMB 60 million ($8.8 million) at the box office.

Wanda secured a $640 million loan to build the most costly skyscraper in Chicago

Wanda, China’s entertainment and property giant, just received a $700 million loan from China’s Ping An Bank to build its ultra high-end Wanda Vista Hotel near Chicago’s lakeshore.

The deal is the biggest such real estate financing package in Chicago’s history, eclipsing the loan Donald Trump scored — $680 million.

“At the center of Chicago, Wanda will build a 365-meter high building to be the city’s new landmark,” Wanda said on its official site.

The loan for the 94-story hotel and condominium complex landed nine months after the building broke ground, which is very rare as most housing developers don’t usually begin the construction before securing full financing.