China’s Huayi Brothers Joins Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves Movies

Wang Zhonglei

The Beijing-based production company signals bold international intentions with an ambitious slate of 32 films for 2014-2015.

China's Huayi Brothers unveiled its annual slate on Thursday of upcoming movies for 2014-2015 -- what the studio calls its “H-Plan.” The lineup signals bold ambitions for the Chinese production company, with 32 movies outlined, including projects that will see the studio link up with Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves, and a confirmation of its investment in the Studio 8 venture with former Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov.

Huayi will get involved in the political thriller John Wick, featuring Reeves, who shot his Man of Tai Chi in China, and is also investing in the Lionsgate action comedy Mortdecai, with Depp, who recently visited China.

The Chinese firm was a “major investor” in the $75 million Fury, featuring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, which is set for a North American release in November, and is likely to enter Chinese theaters at the same time. The film has a budget of $75 million.

Huayi revealed it was also involved in backing two animated features from Hollywood, which are due for release next year.

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Huayi Brothers' 2014-2015 Plan H includes movies featuring 26 top directors and producers, such as Feng Xiaogang, Tsui Hark and Jackie Chan, with whom Huayi is making the historical epic Dragon Blade, which is set to release at the Chinese Lunar New Year early next year.

Other big mainland Chinese and Hong Kong names include Chen Guofu, Gu Changwei, Pang Ho-Cheung, Doze Niu, Zhang Wanting, Alex Law and Mabel Cheung, Wilson Yip, Wang Jing, Wu’ershan, Guan Hu, Cheng’er, Teng Huatao and Daniel Lee.

Of the 32 movies, 14 are scheduled for 2014 and 18 films in 2015 and they will cover all genres, including comedy, romantic comedy, animation, thrillers and war movies.

The group also confirmed it would invest between $120 million and $150 million in Studio 8, saying the stake purchase was an important step for Huayi Brothers to explore the Hollywood market and develop an international strategy.

“Before we were involved in co-production but couldn’t enter the mainstream U.S. production and distribution chain. This time Huayi has a good opportunity and we hope to make blockbusters like Inception,” said Huayi founder and chief executive Wang Zhongjun.

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“On the one hand, it can increase the source of films released in China and on the other hand, we can draw the from the experience of frontline American film companies.”

His brother Wang Zhonglei, who is president of the company, said this was the 20th anniversary of Huayi’s foundation and over that time the group had earned $1.5 billion (9.2 billion yuan).

“This quarter we will break the record. We are planning to enter the 10-billion-yuan era with the lists of films in our fourth Plan H and by continuing to lead the China film industry,” said Wang.

Huayi’s co-production Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons was the highest-grossing film of 2013, with a $206 million box-office take.