This could be Jack Ma’s day of being wild. Listed firm ChinaVision Media, which is expected to soon become Alibaba’s movie-making arm, has announced that it has reached a meeting of creative minds with acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar-wai.
ChinaVision Media said in a stock exchange filing Thursday that the company has entered into a film development deal and a supplemental agreement with Wong’s Block 2 Films Ltd. The agreement grants ChinaVision Media priority rights in the next five years to work with Block 2 Films on up to five Chinese-language movies that Wong will either direct, produce or write.
It comes just a fortnight before shareholders of ChinaVision Media are due to vote on Alibaba Group’s proposed takeover of the company. In March, Alibaba, which Ma founded, announced an US$804 million offer for 70 percent of ChinaVision. If shareholders approve, ChinaVision Media will change its name to Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd.
That means Wong could be one of the first directors to link up with Ma under the Alibaba Pictures marque. It’s still not known what type of movie Wong will pursue under the deal, but the alliance could be a big turning point for the Chinese movie industry by marking the start of a challenge to market leaders like Huayi Brothers.
Wong’s unique style of movie making might not mean instant rewards for Alibaba. Wong’s latest blockbuster, “The Grandmaster” was in the pipeline for more than five years before it hit the big screen in 2013. But Wong’s hallmark snail’s pace has paid off. “The Grandmaster” was a big hit in both Hong Kong and the mainland, taking in 312 million yuan (US$50.53 million) in China from a total budget of 100 million yuan. It also won awards for best film, best director and best screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards earlier this year.
Alibaba Group has also called on action on other film-related ventures. Earlier this year it unveiled Yu Le Bao, a financial product that allows the public to invest in films and other entertainment ventures. While it still unclear whether Wong’s projects will be included in this financial product, but it could draw more attention from users if the two parties link up.
China’s movie market is one of the fastest growing sectors of the media industry. In 2013, the country’s box office amounted to 21.8 billion yuan, according to official figures. Domestic films generated 12.8 billion yuan, amounting to a year-on-year increase of 54.3 percent and accounting for 58.7 percent of mainland box office revenues last year.
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