Chinese Auto Company Enlists Li Bingbing for $650 Million Push Into Film Business

Li Bingbing

Actress Li Bingbing, star of the forthcoming Resident Evil: Retribution, hits the Oscar carpet wearing Georges Chakra Couture.

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Songliao Automotive is best known for buses but hopes to become an entertainment giant

In the latest sign of the growing appeal of the Chinese film industry, the domestic car company Songliao Automotive said it was planning to branch into online gaming and the film business as part of a $650 million restructuring. It has linked up with big names to do it, including Transformers: Age of Extinction actor Li Bingbing.

Last year, China's radio broadcast, film and TV industries reported revenues totaling $60.1 billion, while box-office revenues reached $3.51 billion, proving a powerful draw for investors from many industries in China as well as interest from Hollywood.

Songliao Auto is based in the industrial northeast and until now was best known for making minibuses and SUVs.

The first step was Songliao Auto's purchase last week of the regional cinema operators Jiangsu Yao Lai for $75.41 million from one of China's biggest film companies, Huayi Brothers. It also announced plans to buy a stake in the Douwan internet game company.

Some $83 million of investment into the fund comes from Jun Lian Jia Rui, a company whose investors include China's most bankable director, Feng Xiaogang, who made Back to 1942 with Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody, the Transformers and Resident Evil star Li, as well as big domestic names Zhang Guoli and Huang Xiaoming.

Feng, Zhang and Li have each invested $3.25 million, while Huang has invested $2.6 million.

The company’s film unit, Yaolai Film and TV, plans to invest in movies by Jackie Chan, Feng and Zhang, as well as focusing on TV dramas.