Beijing Film Festival: Heyi Pictures Signs Partnership Deals for Original Movies

Allen Zhu Heyi Film CEO - H 2014
Courtesy Youku Tudou

Allen Zhu Heyi Film CEO - H 2014

The movie unit of online giant Youku Tudou hopes the deals, including ones with Chinese magazine and online publishers, will provide a steady stream of films for its platform.

Heyi Pictures, the film unit of Chinese online TV giant Youku Tudou, has signed a raft of deals with local media companies to develop original movies for its platform. The deals, including ones with major Chinese magazine and online publishers, could deliver nine projects by 2016, according to Heyi Pictures CEO Allen Zhu

"This partnership is all about incubating intellectual property (IP)," said Zhu, a senior vice president of Youku Tudou in an interview at the Beijing International Film Festival. "Chinese movie audiences are calling for more quality titles while the movie business demands a larger and continuous flow of new IPs."

By working with prominent partners across different domains, Heyi Pictures will build an open platform to develop stronger IPs across multiple screens to bring to these audiences, he said.

Since the beginning of 2014, Heyi Pictures and its previous incarnation at Youku Tudou have co-produced 15 titles, collecting over $690 million at the Chinese box office. Among its big box office successes are The Continent, Fleet of Time and Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain. E-commerce giant Alibaba has an 18.5 percent stake in Youku Tudou.

Much of the focus with the new strategic partnerships is on smaller screens — nearly two-thirds of China's 649 million online users access online content using smartphones or tablets.

"Screens are ubiquitous today, and catering especially for smaller screens, TV screens, smartphone screens that people see on the subway and in airlines, we're going to tailor these movies for those," Zhu said. "The screens are smaller, so the plot needs to be more compact. It's less verbose, the lines are clearer with younger directors and actors, for a younger audience. The marriage of Internet and movies has happened quicker than in the U.S. China has 1.3 billion people, and half of them have access for the first time in their life."

The partnerships include links with two companies to "incubate" their IP and develop them into movies — Mopian and Readers Publishing and Media.

Mopian publishes Internet novels, has more than a dozen popular IPs and has an accumulated readership of over 300 million. The first batch of titles to be incubated are top-viewed ones at the popular website, with over 50 million views, and they include Unlimited Terror, A Tale of the Dragon and Snake and Yang God, which has been hailed as one of the top four Internet fantasies in China.

Readers Publishing and Media is a domestic media conglomerate with eight subsidiary publishing houses, 13 magazines, animations, and digital and outdoor media platforms. Its library includes over 300 literary titles focusing on themes of youth, love and suspense.

Other deals include ones with film production company BlueVision media, Chinese national movie channel CCTV-6, airline advertising platform AirMedia and Fundamental Media, the largest operator of streaming and outdoor media for subways in China. Fundamental Media also has a film unit, which is tied in with Luc Besson's EuropaCorp.