Cannes: China's Jetsen Takes Stake in Tom Cruise's 'American Made' (Exclusive)

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Tom Cruise

The Universal film stars Cruise as real-life American pilot and hustler Barry Seal, who ran drugs for Pablo Escobar and was recruited by the CIA for one of the biggest covert operations in history.

Chinese electronics and digital entertainment company Jetsen Group has taken a stake in Universal Pictures' upcoming crime thriller American Made starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman.

The Beijing-based tech and media firm, which has a market capitalization of approximately $3.6 billion on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, shared news of the investment Thursday with The Hollywood Reporter at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Jetsen declined to disclose the size of the investment, but described it as a "significant stake." The company executed the deal via its Jetsen Cultural Industry subsidiary, which is focused on entertainment content development and acquisitions. The deal entitles Jetsen to a share of American Made's box-office revenue in China. Jetsen's digital media subsidiary, Jetsen Huashi, also gets exclusive Chinese digital rights to the film. The company will pair with Beijing-based cinema chain Dadi Theater Group — the country's third-largest exhibitor — as co-distributors of the movie in China. 

Previously titled MenaAmerican Made was formerly set for release in January, but Universal pushed back its North American opening to Sept. 22, a better position for prestige dramas.  

The film stars Cruise as real-life American pilot and hustler Barry Seal, who ran drugs in the 1980s for cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and was recruited by the CIA for one of the biggest covert operations in history. (Cruise himself is a trained pilot.)

Domhnall Gleeson, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Wright, Jayma Mays, Lola Kirke and Caleb Landry Jones also star in the film, which is being produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Doug Davison, Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson.

China's Perfect World has an ongoing $500 million slate financing deal with Universal, but it doesn't include any distribution rights.

Jetsen Huashi has become a major player in China's increasingly online-driven entertainment landscape. The company acquires digital media rights to Chinese and international film and TV titles — including local rights for VOD, SVOD, OTT, IPTV, etc. — and re-licenses packages of content to China's leading mobile and online platforms, such as iQiyi, Youku and Tencent. 

The company has been such an aggressive behind-the-scenes buyer that it says it now holds the digital rights to a full 90 percent of all Hong Kong films ever made. The company recently acquired the exclusive digital rights to Michael Fassbender's Assassin's Creed for China.

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