China's Alibaba Pictures Pacts With 'Wolf Warrior II' Production Company

Alibaba Pictures CEO Fan Luyuan - H 2017
Alibaba Pictures Group

Jack Ma's film studio says it will work closely with Beijing Culture on film financing, marketing and distribution after the studio's latest release pulled in more than $800 million.

Jack Ma's Alibaba Pictures Group has formed a strategic partnership with Beijing Culture, one of the production companies behind Wolf Warrior II, China's biggest blockbuster of all time.

The partnership was unveiled Friday at a press conference in central Beijing. The two companies said they would cooperate in areas spanning film financing, promotion and distribution, along with movie merchandising.

Fan Luyuan, Alibaba Pictures' newly appointed CEO, pointed to the partners' recent collaboration on Wolf Warriors II as an example of the scale of success that's possible when Chinese stakeholders work together to get the formula right — while also leveraging the internet prowess of tech giants like Alibaba.

"We want to be part of the infrastructure of China’s movie industry,” Fan said.

Written by, directed by and starring Chinese martial artist Wu Jing, Wolf Warrior II has earned a colossal $810 million in China since its July 26 release. Fan said some 40 percent of all Wolf Warrior II ticket sales were transacted over Alibaba's Taopiaopiao mobile ticketing platform. The service also was used to drive marketing and merchandising offers to filmgoers.

Beijing Culture has been amassing a powerful collection of partners. In April 2016, the company signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Anthem and Song, the Chinese studio venture set up by Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Marvel's Captain America franchise. That teaming proved especially fruitful for Wolf Warrior II, on which the Russos consulted and provided their usual stunt team, led by veteran stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave (The Avengers, Suicide Squad, The Hunger Games), elevating its action to Hollywood standard. The Russos also introduced Frank Grillo, the American actor who plays the film's villain, to their Chinese partners.

"For China's film industry infrastructure to be improved, we need to work together," said Alibaba's Fan.

Beijing Culture produces and distributes films TV shows and internet series, as well as runs a talent agency. The studio's next release — Feng Xiaogang's period drama Youth, written by popular Chinese novelist Yan Geling —  is due out in China on Sept. 30.