Australian auteur George Miller is getting into business with Beijing-based real estate giant Sunac China. The Chinese property developer has closed a deal to co-finance Miller’s forthcoming “epic love story” Three Thousand Years of Longing, co-staring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.
Sunac’s growing entertainment subsidiary Sunac Culture will distribute the film in China and participate in the title’s worldwide box office revenue. In May, MGM nabbed North American distribution rights to the project.
Three Thousand Years of Longing will be Miller’s followup to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), which was a critical sensation and a box-office smash, earning $374 million during its global theatrical run. Little has been reveal about the project, beyond its genre and that it was written by Miller and will be produced by the director and Doug Mitchell. The movie is expected to shoot in Australia, London and Istanbul.
The Sunac deal, which was brokered by CAA Media Finance at the recent Cannes Virtual Market, is among the very few recent cross-border film agreements between Hollywood and China this year. During Cannes, Beijing buyers largely sat on the sidelines, weighed down by financial hardships at home caused by more than five months of cinema closures. But even before the pandemic, the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and deteriorating diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing had cast a pall over dealmaking between the world’s two biggest film territories.
Sunac is commonly cited as China’s fourth-largest private property developer. The company came to Hollywood’s attention in 2017 when it stepped in to buy a collection of Chinese theme parks and the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis — a vast film studio complex with 40 state-of-the-art sound stages — from fellow real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group, which had fallen out of political favor and was buried in debt.
Sunac Culture is headed by Sun Zheyi, the 30-year-old son of Sun Hongbin, the property conglomerate’s chairman. The entertainment arm is said to have big ambitions as a film financier. The company has bankrolled a slate of upcoming Chinese titles, including the fantasy thriller Assassin in Red and the animated feature The King’s Avatar: For the Glory, based on a popular Chinese video game.
In January, the group added to its entertainment assets by acquiring China’s leading visual effects house, BaseFX, known for its work on the local sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth and Warner Bros.’ Aquaman.