China's Heyi Pictures Unveils 2015 Slate

Genre movies like 'The Taking of Tiger Mountain' have performed well for Heyi Pictures

The movie unit of online giant Youku Tudou is planning six films for the year ahead, with a heavy emphasis on adaptations.

Heyi Pictures, the film unit of China's leading online TV company, Youku Tudou, in which e-commerce giant Alibaba has an 18.5 percent stake, has unveiled a slate of six projects for the year, mostly adaptations of popular online shows, plays or comics.

"The six projects are mostly genre films, reflecting Heyi’s underlying strategy to bring successful Intellectual Properties (IP) across the online and offline worlds to the silver screen," the group said in a statement.

The movies include a film adaptation of Gardenia Blossom, a song performed by TV show host/actor Jiong He that was popular among students in China, as well as a feature length version of Surprise, an online comedy show that has become big on social media.

In the past six months since its inception, Heyi Pictures has co-produced 11 movies with total box office receipts of $530 million, including three major box office successes — The Continent, Fleet of Time and Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain.

"We are committed to building a multi-screen media and entertainment ecosystem. The launch of Heyi Pictures gives us crucial access to the movie industry, the crown jewel of the entertainment business, and I’m confident that the team is well on track with the six movie projects planned for this year to date," said Victor Koo, chairman and CEO of Youku Tudou, and chairman of Heyi Pictures.

Heyi Pictures CEO Allen Zhu reckons genre movies are becoming crucial in the Chinese market, as evidenced by the success of Fleet of Time and The Taking of Tiger Mountain, both adaptations that took in over $80 million and $128 million respectively.

"I see 2015 as the year of genre films," said Zhu. "It's a fast and reliable way to create content for the silver screen. IPs are in essence unique stories with branded characters, and they have a word-of-mouth based reputation as well as an existing community of fans. Our experience in Internet video and incubating productions such as Old Boys and Little Apple can be leveraged toward incubating other IPs as well. We’re sharing these experiences and we aim to become China’s No.1 movie incubation platform."

Also planned this year is Let’s Get Married, based on a Chinese romance TV series from 2013 that topped ratings that year, along with You’ve Got to Have a Dream, What if it Comes True?, adapted from a top-selling comic book with a huge following on Weibo. The comic is so iconic that its title was used by Alibaba CEO Jack Ma as the title for his speech for Alibaba’s IPO last year.

The others include How Much Love Can Be Played, based on a stage play that has been performed 3,000 times across China since its debut in 2006, and A Teacher’s Diary, a remake of a successful romantic comedy in Thailand.