China's LeTV Chief Expects Revenues to More Than Double in 2015

LeTV's film unit LeVision produced Zhang Yimou's 'Coming Home'

As well as increasing film production, the company will develop its smart-TV business and work on an electric car, said Jia Yueting

China's leading private entertainment company, LeTV, is targeting $3.7 billion in revenues in 2015 and said rumors about the company's links to a government corruption investigation had only made it stronger.

"This winter is cold, just as the hardship that we must go through; this winter is warm, because we have the unswerving and steadfast support of LeTV fans, shareholders, and staff. The road to revolution is never an easy path," LeTV head Jia Yueting said in an email to staff obtained by THR.

Jia said revenues were $1.6 billion in 2014 and that this year had been a big year for its film unit, LeVision Pictures, which was a significant investor in The Expendables 3. "LeVision Pictures produced blockbusters and is expected to have the largest box office," Jia said.

As well as the third outing for The Expendables, in 2014 LeVision also produced the Zhang Yimou movie Coming Home. It has a stake in the wildly successful Tiny Times franchise and is also involved in John Woo's recently released epic, The Crossing.

LeVision, which is run by Zhang Zhao, has plans for "an expansive development slate" that will utilize top-flight talent from Hollywood and China to create $100 million-plus tentpoles for the global marketplace. In October, LeVision set up an office in L.A. and said it would bankroll its Hollywood campaign with a $200 million film fund to make blockbusters.

Read more AFM: LeVision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao on Hollywood-China Co-Productions

"The year 2014 can be regarded as the hardest year in LeTV's history," Jia said, referring to reported links to a high-level corruption investigation in the coal-rich province of Shanxi, although he admitted that an early investor was a company linked to the graft probe.

"There were numerous rumors about us and they impeded our footstep in moving forward. The greater the tribulation, however, the better it helps us grow. Sometimes in life, you must hit the rock bottom before going back up and reaching a height that you never reached before," he said.

Many believed that Jia's long absence from China was because he was trying to avoid the graft investigators, but he said he was "busy with LeTV's overseas planning, the super car 'SEE project' and receiving surgery."

Jia said sales of LeTV's smart TVs, called Super TV, were expected to reach three to four million units this year, up from 1.5 million sets in 2014, although analysts said a license dispute with the media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, may hamper that growth.

The company will also launch a partnership plan in the first half of 2015 under which every employee will acquire a stake in the company.
There are continuing rumors the company is developing a smartphone, but Jia didn't touch upon that. 

Last month LeVision said that it had picked up its first U.S. project, an epic fantasy adventure titled 8 Immortals inspired by Chinese mythology from the writer Jeremy Breslau, the first in its plan to make China-Hollywood blockbuster co-productions.

LeVision Pictures USA plans to attach a high-profile Hollywood director and partner with a major studio for what will be an English-language Chinese-American co-production.

Read more Cannes: LeVision Pictures CEO Zhang Zhao on China's Inexorable Rise (Q&A)