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SHANGHAI – Producers of the fourth installment of the Transformers franchise have secured their first Chinese commercial sponsor, with a Beijing investment company inking a deal that would require the film to show several prominent landmarks in the Chinese capital.
In a signing ceremony held on Tuesday at the Shanghai Film Art Center – the hub of the Shanghai International Film Festival which began on Saturday – Beijing Pangu Investment announced an agreement with representatives from Paramount Pictures and Jiaflix Enterprises, two of Transformers 4’s co-producers.
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The deal will see Beijing Pangu Investment providing financial resources to the production, in exchange for the company’s flagship building in Beijing, the Pangu Plaza Hotel, being shown in the film. Beijing National Stadium and Beijing National Aquatics Center, the two Beijing Olympics venues standing nearby the hotel, will also be present in the film, according to the announcement.
Apart from Paramount Pictures and Jiaflix, Transformers 4 is also jointly produced by the state-backed China Movie Channel, which operates, among others, the m1905.com film information and movie streaming site. The film is being shaped as a co-production, meaning it could circumvent the country’s strict film import quota (34 per year) and also bring in a bigger share of box office revenue for its international investors.
The last installment of the franchise, Dark of the Moon, remains the fourth-highest grossing release ever in China with a local box-office haul of $177.9 million (1.09 billion yuan).
The Pangu deal is the latest of the franchise’s efforts to recruit Chinese collaborators in order to enhance its local pedigree. Earlier, the film’s co-producers launched a competition in which contestants will be selected to take part in a television talent show series, with the prizes being what Jiaflix co-owner Sid Ganis described as “speaking parts” in the film.
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Countering criticism in the Chinese media that the scouting exercise might merely be a marketing device to make a Hollywood production popular in China, Ganis told The Hollywood Reporter that the event was “China Movie Channel’s idea and a very good one to engage the public.”
“Certainly we are showmen and what we do is to whip up a frenzy,” said the former Sony Pictures vice-president, who was also in Shanghai to participate in panels at the Shanghai International Film Festival’s film market. “But it’s sincerely about finding professional and amateur talent to be in a movie – it has a publicity and marketing element to it but it’s also that we need Chinese talent and it’s a good way to discover it.”
Ganis also revealed Bay has done “a lot of additional work” to his draft screenplay of the film after a meeting with China’s film regulators in Beijing two months ago.
Bay and Paramount executives met with officials from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television what Ganis described as “a formal meeting.”
“They didn’t say what you have to do, not at all,” Ganis explained. “They said to us: ‘Consider who we are as a people and as a government, and when you’re writing the next draft, be mindful of that, please.’ They did not say, ever, that ‘you must do this and that’ – never ever.”
Meanwhile, Ganis also told THR that another “major U.S. film company” has agreed to license content for subscription-based or one-off streaming on the m1905.com platform – a venture initiated by Jiaflix and China Movie Channel last June which currently boasts of thousands of local films plus hundreds from Paramount.
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