Hello, Chinawood

In studying the feasibility of a film studio opportunity in Prince George’s County, MD, I came upon a global research report that prefaced the data with the following statement: “New distribution channels and growth in the Asian-Pacific region is expected to propel the global film industry forward, helping it recover from falling box office revenues in Europe and the U.S.”

Indeed, China is the new center for big studio investment with relationships that bridge government and free-market systems to make movies. Its government can both facilitate commerce and prosecute copyrighted piracy. What’s the significance of this?

On May 8, the chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, joined business leaders in a letter to President Barack Obama asking his administration to support strong intellectual property provisions as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The latest round of TPP negotiations began that day in Dallas, Texas.

“We are a nation of creators, and we must ensure that American workers continue to be compensated for the things they create,” Senator Dodd said.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, worldwide box office for all films released in each country around the world reached $31.8 billion in 2010, up 8 percent over 2009’s total, boosted by box office increases in markets outside of the U.S. and Canada. International box offices ($21.2 billion) made up 67 percent of the worldwide total, a slightly higher proportion than in previous years.

According to FilmContact.com, as reported on February 22, DreamWorks Animation announced plans to build Oriental DreamWorks, a studio in Shanghai, in what it billed as a landmark joint-venture agreement with two state-owned Chinese media companies. According to The Guardian on May 1, U.S. and Chinese film industries took a significant step toward collaboration with the announcement of the Chinawood Global Services Base, a multimillion-dollar movie-making center to be constructed in partnership with the Chinese authorities. Chinese studio boss Bruno Wu of Seven Stars Entertainment has secured the help of the government of the Binhai New Area, Tianjin, to build Chinawood, which represents a $1.27 billion investment for a complex that will ultimately total 8.6 million square feet after completion. (It will still have some way to go to beat the 35.5 million square feet of the world’s largest film studio, Hengdian, also in China.)

According to the Los Angeles Times on May 14, Twentieth Century Fox’s parent company News Corp. has agreed to acquire a 19.9 percent stake in Beijing-based Bona Film Group, the latest attempt by Hollywood to cash in on Asia’s biggest movie boom. It also signals the global aspirations of China’s second-largest independent movie production and distribution firm.
The investment by News Corp. comes after a 30 percent jump in China’s box office sales last year to $2.1 billion. In the first quarter, China passed Japan as the largest overseas theatrical market for Hollywood films. Government forecasts show it should catch up with the U.S. box office by 2015.

It was reported that China is also looking to expand its presence in North America. The Wanda Group, the largest theater operator in China, is in talks to acquire part or all of AMC Entertainment, the second-largest cinema circuit in the U.S. and Canada.

With this increased collaboration and investment from companies in China, it’s clear that Hollywood isn’t just in California anymore.

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