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Ever since Le Vision Pictures USA — the L.A.-based arm of China’s third-largest privately owned studio — was announced in 2012, it has remained relatively quiet. That all changed on Monday, when a stream of deals was unveiled involving no fewer than 19 projects.
“For two and a half years, we’ve been focused on one thing: developing scripts,” explained Le Vision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao at the U.S. arm’s launch event at Beverly Hills’ Hotel Sofitel on Monday night, a gathering that included remarks from legendary Chinese director Zhang Yimou, director of Le Vision and Legendary’s upcoming $150 million co-production The Great Wall.
At the event, Le Vision Pictures USA announced its full slate of 10 films — all intended to be English-language, tentpole-scale movies that emphasize Chinese culture — and they included:
· 8 Immortals — Portal to the Demon World, in which a teenaged outcast and his friends deal with a giant demon invasion in Beijing
· Mandate of Heaven, a sci-fi adaptation of the classic Chinese epic novel Water Margin;
· Rise of the Great Warriors, to be directed by Ronny Yu, who helmed the 2006 Jet Li-starrer Fearless;
· The Valley Life, based on a best-selling Chinese online novel about expat programmers and engineers in Silicon Valley;
· Snow Beast, about an expedition team that runs into the mythical creature;
· King of Kings, wherein two Chinese gods go to war with one another in this fantasy epic;
· The Sun Chaser, described only as a fantasy adventure;
· Peony Pavilion, a fantasy adaptation of the classic Chinese stage tragedy;
· a re-interpretation of the Giacomo Puccini opera Turandot;
· and the previously announced Zodiac: The Year of the Snake, written by Jayson Rothwell and to be produced by 300’s Bernie Goldmann.
In addition, Le Vision Pictures USA will distribute Lionsgate’s upcoming fantasy epic Gods of Egypt, starring Gerard Butler, in China. The companies previously partnered on the release of The Expendables 3, which grossed $72.9 million in China last year thanks in part to Le Vision’s innovative “Internet-plus” marketing strategy. Zhang explained the tactic at the launch event with a charming illustration of how The Expendables 2 reached out to young men online to convince them to purchase tickets for their fathers (the Expendables franchise’s target demographic around the world) and timed the release to China’s Mid-Autumn Festival in order to turn the movie into a family event.
“We noticed how effective you are at marketing to mass and particularly young adult audiences,” said Lionsgate COO Brian Goldsmith to Zhang during a brief onstage conversation. The respective successes of the two studios’ youth-skewing series (The Hunger Games and Divergent for Lionsgate, Tiny Times for Le Vision) make them two studios logical partners for “bringing Chinese youth IP to the world,” Zhang said, adding that Lionsgate and Le Vision will announce a couple more titles in the future.
The evening’s announcements followed earlier news that Le Vision is partnering with Dark Horse Comics to adapt six Chinese graphic novels into English-language books and eventually feature films, and that the studio also has signed The Lion King director Rob Minkoff to two pictures: an animated adaptation of Wolf Totem (China Film Co.’s live-action version grossed more than $110 million and was the country’s Oscar submission until the Academy deemed the Chinese-French co-production ineligible) and live-action comedy Silkworms, about two bumbling Roman monks dispatched to steal the secrets of Chinese silk production.
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