China's Huayi Brothers Striking 18-Picture Deal With STX

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Robert Simonds, Wang Zhonglei

On Monday, China's Huayi Brothers revealed it is signing an ambitious three-year deal with a U.S. film company that it has not yet officially named.

The leading Chinese film and television company Huayi Brothers is planning to sign an ambitious three-year deal with Bob Simonds' new STX Entertainment to make 18 films before the end of 2017.

According to a regulatory statement filed with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the Huayi Brothers will co-produce, co-finance and retain distribution rights to the movies in Greater China. Huayi also would take a share of global revenues and profits. It would also mark the first time that a Chinese film company held the copyright to the co-produced films, according to the filing.

While the filing did not name the partner, sources tell THR that it is STX, which has been aggressively ramping up and already boasts a slate of titles, including Gary Ross' Civil War drama The Free State of Jones, starring Matthew McConaughey. The infusion of production capital from Huayi would bolster STX's efforts.

Steve Elzer, a spokesman for STX, would only say, "We do not comment on rumors."

Huayi is run by brothers Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei, who have been eager to establish a major Hollywood presence. Last year, they were in talks to take a $120 million-$150 million stake in Jeff Robinov's new film company, Studio 8, but those talks unraveled before China's Fosun stepped in with a $200 million capital injection.

The new venture would be run out of Huayi's U.S. office, which opened last year.

The regulatory statement said the deal was "of great significance" and marked "a new era for the internationalization of Chinese film," citing industry figures. The statement said it was the first time that a Chinese film company was involved in the whole Hollywood procedure from investment to shooting to distribution, as well as taking a cut of global revenue.

Launched in 2014, STX Entertainment has amassed a stable of seasoned studio executives, including former Universal chairman Adam Fogelson and veteran marketing executive Oren Aviv.

STX is backed by venture capital firm TPG, Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital and equity from Gigi Pritzker and Beau Wrigley. Its film slate also includes the psychological thriller The Boy and The Secret in Their Eyes, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts.