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Bruno Wu, the Sino media mogul behind the Sun Seven Stars entertainment conglomerate, has joined forces with Chinese online financial services giant the Yucheng Group to launch a $1.6 billion equity fund that will bankroll international film and TV projects with an emphasis on the Hollywood talent pool.
Wu unveiled the new fund at an exclusive dinner with L.A. producers at the W Hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 4.
Called the China Global Alliance Film Fund, the investment structure will be a strategic cooperation between Sun Seven Star Culture and Yucheng Group’s Internet financing platform Muse Era.
Wu’s Sun Seven Stars will be in charge of allocating the funds, with a team to greenlight projects. Speaking to THR, Wu said the fund would back planned tentpole projects from Sun Seven Stars’ stable of production companies — including a feature adaptation of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, YA fantasy novels, a sci-fi superhero re-imagining of Zorro, titled Zorro Reborn, and a feature based on the popular Tetris video game.
But the fund will also back third-party projects, including indie features and studio slates. Wu said the fund would invest primarily in development and in greenlit projects. For films from his own production companies and partners, such as U.S. group Content Media, Justin Lin’s Perfect Storm Entertainment and Paris-based Angel Storm, the equity play will not exceed 20 percent of a project’s budget.
“This is not a pure financial play. Our ultimate goal is to own a piece of the IP (intellectual property),” says Wu. “We want to be in control.”
Yucheng Group runs China’s leading online financial service platform and has raised more than $9 billion to date through its asset-to-peer financing, where individuals invest in everything from property to art works. The film fund will be Yucheng Group’s first move into investment in intangible assets like film.
A day earlier at an event in Santa Monica, Chinese movie studio Bona Film Group announced a $235 million investment in The Seelig Group (TSG Entertainment Finance), the financier behind a slate of six live-action tentpoles from 20th Century Fox, including The Martian. The deal effectively allows Bona to invest in Fox’s live-action movie slate, through TSG, and to participate in the profits.
“I think this shows the versatility and potential of Chinese capital,” Bona Film Group COO Jeffrey Chan told THR. “’It’s not just China-market centric. We are optimistic about the Chinese market but at the same time we want to be a global player and hopefully, this transaction will allow us to learn about the global market.”
This type of Chinese direct investment in Hollywood movie-making is picking up.
Internet giant Alibaba invested in Paramount’s Mission Impossible – Rouge Nation, and Tencent has an equity stake in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming World of Warcraft adaptation. Wanda was the sole financier of Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Southpaw — all English-language titles targeting a global audience.
“The difference between most Chinese investment up to now is that other Chinese companies see China as their home market. I see the U.S. and the world as my home market,” Wu says. “(Chinese companies) have made the same mistakes in the U.S. as U.S. companies have in China. They think: how do I take U.S. product and make it work in China? I think: how do I make product that works for the world, because if it works for the world, it will work for China.”
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