Disney to Develop Chinese Co-Productions With Shanghai Media Group

Claire Rydell/Newscom

The two companies will collaborate on Disney-branded movies with "Chinese elements" for the booming China market.

In the latest linkup between Hollywood and the booming Chinese film business, Walt Disney Studios has struck a multi-year deal with Shanghai Media Group Pictures to co-develop Disney-branded movies for China and other markets. 

Under the deal, Burbank-based Disney Studios will partner U.S. screenwriters with writers and directors in China to co-develop film projects that are essentially Disney, yet contain "Chinese elements."

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China's film market, already the world's second largest, continues to expanded relentlessly. In 2013, total box office hit $3.6 billion, up 27 percent from 2012. According to current forecasts, it is expected to reach $4.6 billion this year.

“For over 90 years Disney has built a rich legacy of entertaining families with high-quality storytelling and compelling characters,” said Disney Studios president Alan Bergman in a statement. “Disney’s collaboration with SMG adds an exciting chapter of new stories for the next generation of global Disney fans.”

Tony To, executive vp production at Disney Studios, will oversee the co-development program.

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The deal follows an earlier partnership between the two companies. In December, Walt Disney Company China and Shanghai Media Group's BesTV New Media unit formed a joint venture to combine technology and marketing skills to tap into China's digital media and entertainment market.

Marvel Disney's Iron Man 3, a co-production with Chinese studio DMG, was the best-performing Hollywood film in the China market last year, grossing $120 million.

Shanghai Media Group, a state-owned entity, is China's second-largest media group. It owns three TV companies, two radio stations, a newspaper, a web portal, a number of sports franchises and has substantial real estate holdings. SMG's content is distributed to TV stations around the country. The Disney deal is part of an ongoing effort to expand its business into movies.

The group is part of a consortium of three Chinese companies linking up with DreamWorks in the Oriental DreamWorks (ODW) project, which is co-producing Kung Fu Panda 3.

The company was founded in 2001, and prominent Shanghai businessman Li Ruigang served as president from 2002 to 2011, during its rise to prominence. Li has since taken over as head the investment fund China Media Capital but remains in a senior executive position at SMG.