China's Huayi Brothers Plans to Invest up to $150 Million in Jeff Robinov's New Company

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Jeff Robinov

Huayi says it will issue and distribute films produced by Studio 8 in the Greater China region.

In one of the biggest China-Hollywood team-ups so far, a spokesperson for Chinese production company Huayi Brothers says it plans to inject between $120 million and $150 million in Studio 8, a firm to be launched by former Warner Bros. film studio chief Jeff Robinov.

“Once Huayi Brothers become the shareholder of Studio 8, Huayi will be responsible for the issue of all its movies in Greater China,” a Huayi Brothers spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.

The spokesperson said the details of the agreement have not been finalized and the timing remains unclear.

Robinov is reportedly in discussions with a variety of financiers, both in the U.S. and overseas, to create a company with as much as $300 million in funding to make five movies a year.  The deal could come together within the next few weeks.

Robinov could not be reached for comment.

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Some government approvals are needed before the official signing of the agreement, the Beijing-based company said. The announcement to the Shenzhen stock exchange came after China's markets closed.

Huayi Brothers was formed in 1994 and has grown into an entertainment conglomerate with interests in film, TV, music, advertising and talent management. The company is known to have been seeking co-production and co-financing partners abroad.

Huayi had announced a deal with Legendary Pictures in 2011, but it foundered.

The company was behind two of 2013’s biggest movies at the Chinese box office, Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons and Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. The company’s 2013 net profit more than doubled to $109 million.

Brothers Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei, who run the company, have previously said that they wanted to be “the Chinese Warner Bros.”, so there is a certain irony in their choice of Robinov, a former Warners executive, as a U.S. partner.

Asked if the movies would be released and marketed by Sony Pictures -- as industry insiders anticipate -- the spokesperson said it had not been decided who would distribute the films outside of China.

The move comes as Chinese companies are keen to expand in the U.S. market.

In May 2012, the Chinese real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group acquired AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion to become the biggest theater operator in the United States.

Shares in Huayi Brothers will resume trading on Friday after being suspended in afternoon trading on Thursday.