DreamWorks Animation to Co-Produce 'Kung Fu Panda 3,' Build Entertainment Complex in China

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With 12 Annie Award nominations, DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 2" tops Paramount's "Rango" (9 noms) and Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" (8) and "Cars 2" (7). DWA's "Puss in Boots" picked up another 9 noms.

In a joint venture with Chinese partners, the company, led by CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, will also build an animation studio in Shanghai.

DreamWorks Animation will co-produce Kung Fu Panda 3 in China with local partners China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment, the companies announced Tuesday.

Oriental DreamWorks, a Chinese joint venture formed by the companies, will also invest more than 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) to build an animation studio and an entertainment complex and theme park, called the Dream Center, in Shanghai, it said. Scheduled to open in 2016, it will include theaters, shops, restaurants and hotels. It will also include what was called the “Dream Walk,” the world’s largest Imax screen, which will be used for premieres and other events.

"Today's signing ceremony is a historic milestone that represents tremendous and ever-growing opportunities for Oriental DreamWorks," DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a statement.

“We have formed what we think is a very valuable strategic partnership to make world class feature animation,” Bloomberg News quoted him as saying at a press conference in Shanghai. “We’re very confident that the creative talent exists here in China. We’re very enthusiastic about building a studio.”

The studio will get a $350 million investment and hire about 800 people in the coming years.

The project will be “complementary” to the Shanghai theme park being developed by Disney, the CEO said. And it will be a “celebration of great theater, great art, great culture, great music, all in one place” and target 18 to 34 year olds, Bloomberg quoted him as saying.

He said the studio has seven scripts in development, one of which will be its first original movie out of China. The third Kung Fu Panda is scheduled to be released in 2016.

The DWA joint venture news had been expected in recent months. It follows Walt Disney's agreement earlier this year to co-produce its Marvel studio's Iron Man 3 in China and News Corp.'s decision in May to invest in China's Bona Film Group. The deals come as Hollywood studios continue to look to expand their relationships and footprint in one of the fastest- growing movie markets in the world.

Film ticket sales in China last year reached more than $2 billion, making it the third-largest market behind the U.S. and Japan, and the country is adding more theaters than any other country in the world.

DWA holds a stake of about 45 percent in Oriental DreamWorks. The venture's logo features "a panda sitting on a red moon fishing for dreams," the companies said.

The venture partners are currently looking for funding partners for the Dream Center, said Li Ruigang, chairman of China Media Capital.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai