Spotlight hits Xinhua's new co-prod'n act

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The China Film Group and Xinhua Media Entertainment, a new subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed XFMedia, on Monday announced a strategic alliance to co-produce movies from offices in Beijing and Los Angeles. David Lee, former head of the Weinstein Co.'s Asia Film Fund, will serve as the venture's managing director.

CFG is the largest and most influential state-run film enterprise in China, and its participation is required for any co-production there. Xinhua Media Entertainment will be part of XFMedia's Production Group, which produces animation drama series and special effects for Chinese television.

"Han Sanping, chairman of China Film Group, has authorized Xinhua Media Entertainment to act as its U.S. representative in facilitating the negotiation of potential co-productions," XFMedia CEO Fredy Bush said from Beijing.

Lee, the Weinsteins' former executive vp Asian operations, also co-executive produced the Sino-U.S. co-production "The Forbidden Kingdom," the first film to team martial arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The film is set for release Friday in North America by the Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate.

"David will leverage his expertise to structure co-productions that achieve win-win collaborations between China Film Group and major U.S. studios with plans to co-produce films in China," Bush said.

Lee, who has been a part of the China film delegation to Hollywood since 2006, is accompanying CFG chairman Han on a tour of Los Angeles this week. Lee said he had begun looking at "various high-profile co-productions" in February and that the company will be pursuing action, contemporary and animated projects for the international market shot primarily in Chinese and English.

Xinhua Media's financial contribution on projects will vary depending on what each side brings to the table, Lee said, adding that, while he could envision 50-50 co-productions, "there is more than one way to skin a cat."

"The greatest challenge in this new venture is enabling both sides to gain an understanding of how things are done on the other side of the fence," he said. "They are both very rigid systems, Hollywood and China, but if there's one film that proves it is possible, 'Forbidden Kingdom' is it.

"We got entrepreneurial minds from both places to work together," Lee said, adding that he would happily work outside the Hollywood studio system again, as he did with Casey Silver and Raffaella de Laurentiis on "Kingdom."

Founded in 2005, Beijing-based XFMedia listed on the Nasdaq in April 2007 and now has a market capitalization of about $210 million.
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