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DreamWorks Oriental to Eventually Produce Two, Three Films a Year in China

Dreamworks Animation Logo - H 2012
Dreamworks Animation

The Chinese venture will likely pick its first film to be fully produced in Shanghai by early 2013, says Li Ruigang, chairman of venture partner China Media Capital.

ABU DHABI - A key partner in DreamWorks Animation's Chinese joint venture Oriental DreamWorks said here Wednesday that a film production facility that the venture is building in Shanghai could in several years produce two to three films.

In a fireside chat at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit entitled “Panda Power: Opening the great wall," Li Ruigang, chairman of China Media Capital emphasized that Hollywood studios have in the past tried to set up production houses in China, "but failed." So, the venture, announced earlier this year, will mark the first time a studio will work in China.

DreamWorks Animation will co-produce Kung Fu Panda 3, set to be released in 2016, in China with its local venture partners China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment, the companies announced this summer. They will invest more than 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) to build an animation studio and an entertainment complex called the Dream Center. The studio itself will get a $350 million investment and hire about 800 people in the coming years, the companies had said.

The co-production of Panda 3 will be followed by a first full China production to be released in 2017, the partners have said. The studio is looking at seven scripts now and is likely to pick one to focus on as the first China-made animation release by early 2013, Li told THR Wednesday. He said it is likely to have Chinese elements, but appeal to a global audience as it will be released worldwide.

"In five to six years," the studio hopes to produce two to three movies a year from China, he said in his Abu Dhabi Media Summit appearance. But he afterwards told THR that it may only be around 2022 until the studio consistently reaches that level of output.

The executive left his post as head of Shanghai Media Group, one of the largest media companies in China, last year to run China Media Capital.

China Media Capital has also invested in the largest home shopping network in China and taken a majority stake in Chinese-speaking Star TV in mainland China.

Asked about possible future investments for his company's $300 million current fund, Li said his team is looking at live entertainment, sports, which will be "the next opportunities," and content creation.

He cited sports leagues and sports marketing as specific potential investments. Leagues are part of the government in China, so there is upside from a potential privatization, he signaled. Sports TV is also mostly state-owned, such as key sports network CCTV5, he said. "The situation will be changed eventually," he predicted.

Asked about his expectation for change in China, especially in the media and entertainment market, Li predicted it will continue to be "smooth and gradual at its own pace." He predicted no major change in this pace from the next Chinese government.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai