China's iQiyi Takes Stake in Vin Diesel's 'xXx 4'

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Vin Diesel

The deal is part of an expanded co-financing pact between the Chinese streaming video giant and startup film studio The H Collective.

Chinese online video giant iQiyi is doubling down on its co-production pact with startup film studio The H Collective.

The partners said Friday that they will now co-produce a slate of six feature films together, adding to the previously announced three. The most high-profile of their planned collaborations, which iQiyi will co-finance, is the upcoming Vin Diesel vehicle xXx 4, directed by franchise returnee DJ Caruso. 

The other two titles added to their shared slate are horror spec The Beast, which was brought to The H Collective by incoming president of production Sherryl Clark, and a currently untiled project based on a Manga property.

The partners say the co-produced titles were developed to be equally profitable in the North American and Chinese theatrical markets, home to the world's two largest box offices. iQiyi will distribute the films in China, while H Collective will handle their release stateside and internationally through a global distribution arrangement with Sony Pictures. 

“Having iQiyi financially support our ideas and slate is not something we take lightly and further strengthens our ties with the company," said Nic Crawley, a Paramount and Disney alum who joined The H Collective as its CEO last year. "The expansion from co-production and distribution to investment was a natural progression for our partnership."

iQiyi and The H Collective first revealed that they would be getting into business together back in May. Their first joint effort to go into production will be the action-comedy Counter Spy, based on a script being reworked by Thor: Ragnarok co-writer Craig Kyle. The story follows a barista at a Starbucks at CIA headquarters who gets entangled into a worldwide conspiracy.

Other projects from The H Collective include a James Gunn-produced horror pic starring Elizabeth Banks and a drama titled The Parts You Lose, starring Aaron Paul, Scoot McNairy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Launched just in June of last year, The H Collective is known to be backed by Chinese brothers Kenneth and Kent Huang, two financiers who were previously behind the Shanghai-based film company Huahua Media, which co-financed and marketed several Paramount titles in the Middle Kingdom. The company attempted to arrange a $1 billion slate financing pact at Paramount in the waning days of Brad Grey's tenure at the studio, but the deal ultimately fell apart and Huahua was later sold to another publicly traded media company in Shanghai.

The brothers and other backers, both Chinese and American, set up shop in Los Angeles as The H Collective in June 2017. One of their first big wins on the Chinese side was landing the North American and South American distribution rights to Beijing Culture's Wu Jing-starring military action flick Wolf Warrior 2, which went on to become China's highest-grossing film ever, earning $854 million in China and $2.7 million in North America. Beijing Culture's chairman, Song Ge, holds a seat on The H Collective's board.

The previous xXx film, The Return of Xander Cage, was produced by Paramount and earned $44.9 million in North America and $164 million in China in 2017. Huahua Media co-financed xXx 3 and served as the titles local marketing partner in the Middle Kingdom. Diesel and The H Collective bought the rights to the franchise from Revolution Studios in April. 

One of China's largest entertainment companies, iQiyi went public in March on Nasdaq, raising about $2.25 billion. The company is believed to be a narrow leader in China's massive streaming video market, with an estimated 60.1 million subscribers as of earlier this year. iQiyi is currently riding high after releasing China's most talked about online show of the summer, period costume drama Story of Yanxi Palace, which set numerous viewership records and has attracted over 13 billion views since August.