Meet 7 Key Players in China's Film Industry

6:15 AM 5/8/2018

by Patrick Brzeski

Funds for indie films like Roland Emmerich's WWII drama 'Midway' increasingly come from Chinese companies, either privately owned or government-backed.

Meet Seven Gatekeepers to China -Edward Cheng - Photographed by Jasper James - H 2018
Jasper James

  • Li Ruigang

    The China-Hollywood dealmaker nonpareil holds sizable stakes in everything from Warner Bros.’ Flagship Entertainment to CAA China to Imagine Entertainment and Pearl Studio (formerly Oriental DreamWorks), even as the venture capital firm’s domestic Chinese production house, Gravity Pictures, has co-financed Jason Statham’s upcoming $150 million giant-shark movie The Meg. With deep government connections and storied local market savvy, Li stands apart in bringing Chinese capital to the table. “It’s not about making quick money,” he says. “We’re looking to create a strategic industrial system with sustainable operation over the long term.

  • James Wang

    Few Chinese studio heads have been in business with Hollywood for quite as long as Wang and his brother Wang Zhongjun, co-heads of Huayi Brothers Media Group, which partnered with Columbia Pictures in 2000 to co-produce Chinese-language films such as Feng Xiaogang’s Big Shot’s Funeral. With the rise of the Chinese theatrical market, the brothers have expanded their ambitions offshore. They signed an 18-picture co-financing agreement with STX Entertainment in 2015 and have bet big on Marvel mainstays Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Infinity War), paying $250 million for a 60 percent stake in their new L.A.-based film studio, Agbo Films. Of that collaboration, Wang says “the main direction agreed upon is to develop global super IP series, in which case we would expect to profit more from the global market, enhance the influence of our brands and enrich our IP assets.”

  • Yu Dong

    With cash on hand after the blockbuster success of the Operation Red Sea ($578 million in China alone) Bona will be looking to make big investments in U.S. films in exchange for China distribution rights. “I believe that China will eventually finance as much as 50 percent of all Hollywood film production,” says Yu. The company has put $80 million into Roland Emmerich’s World War II drama Midway and has set up a $150 million fund with CAA, designed to bankroll U.S.-China co-productions and Chinese-language films packaged by CAA

  • Edward Cheng

    Tencent Holdings, Asia’s most valuable company, holds stakes in Snap, STX Entertainment, Tang Media Partners/ Global Road, WME-IMG China and Skydance. The company’s flagship film division, Tencent Pictures, is co-financing Skydance’s Terminator reboot as well as financing and producing an adaptation of its hit online game Zombie Brother, with Channing Tatum’s Free Association. Says Cheng, “Only by linking together various partners, cultural resources and creative forms can we achieve a more efficient creation of digital culture.” 

  • Rong Chen

    Midway through the second phase of a $500 million slate deal with Universal Pictures, the company, which has a market cap of $7.3 billion, has pacted with Endeavor and Village Roadshow to form the studio Perfect Village Entertainment to produce Chinese-language films (next up: Zhang Yimou’s Shadow). “We view ourselves as an ideal vehicle for talented filmmakers to produce their passion projects with global commercial appeal,” says Chen. Chen relocated to Los Angeles in 2017 to establish a satellite office for the company, where his team is fielding U.S. projects. 

  • Haifeng Li

    Fosun Group, via its film division, Fosun Pictures, has bankrolled Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 since it was established in 2014 and is said to be in talks to up its estimated 60 percent stake in the studio, which is currently seeking $200 million in investment capital. 

  • Cheng Gang

    In 2015, TIK Films, the motion picture division of Hunan TV inked a slate-financing deal with Lionsgate for $375 million over three years, the largest Chinese film financing pact of its kind at the time. It’s in ongoing discussions about whether to re-up. Gang assumed the helm of the company in January after its chairman, Long Qiuyun, was arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes. 

    This story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.