China's Huahua Media Buys Stake in Legendary's 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
'Godzilla: King of the Monsters'

The Chinese investor and film marketer says there will be more Hollywood dealmaking to come in 2019.

Chinese film marketing and investment company Huahua Media has joined Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. as a global partner on Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which opens simultaneously in North America and China on May 31.

The Beijing- and Shanghai-based company, which came to prominence several years ago as a co-financier and local marketer of several Paramount tentpoles, declined to share the size of its stake in the release beyond saying that it was a "major investment."

Huahua's investment grants the company participation in the Godzilla sequel's worldwide box office. The Chinese firm will help Legendary and its Chinese parent company, Dalian Wanda Group, market the film across the Middle Kingdom.

King of the Monsters is a sequel to Legendary's 2014 hit Godzilla, which kicked of the studio's MonsterVerse franchise by earning $200 million in North America, $77.6 million in China and $529 million worldwide. The sequel is directed by Michael Dougherty and stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Japanese actor Ken Watanabe and — most notably for Huahua and Wanda — Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi.

Joining Godzilla in the film's CGI-generated mega-monster cast are Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. "When these ancient super-species — thought to be mere myths — rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity's very existence hanging in the balance," reads Legendary and Warner Bros.' tagline for the film.

"Investment and marketing of imported films is an important part of our business, currently and for the future," Huahua CEO Wang Kefei told THR. "There will be more big moves from us this year as we enhance our imports and international investments."

During the latter period of Brad Grey's tenure at Paramount, Huahua was a regular marketing and investment partner for the studio's biggest films in China, taking stakes in titles such as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Star Trek Beyond, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Transformers: Age of Extinction, the latter of which earned a then-record $320 million in the Middle Kingdom in 2014.

Huahua and the state-backed Shanghai Film Group announced a $1 billion slate investment at Paramount in 2017, but that deal ultimately fell apart as Beijing regulators put the breaks on outbound capital flow into the entertainment, sports, hospitality and real estate sectors.

Early 2019 has seen Chinese investment in U.S. filmmaking begin to creep back in, albeit on a limited project-by-project basis. China's Bona Film Group took a stake in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Shanghai-based Fosun Pictures bought a major piece of Ang Lee's forthcoming sci-fi thriller Gemini Man, from Paramount and Skydance. The latter deal is rumored to be worth as much as $50 million, although neither side has officially confirmed a number.

Last year, as sizable investments in Hollywood films remained out of bounds, Huahua purchased the rights on the cheap to a pair of smaller, older European films that it believed had market potential in China — Italian comedy drama Perfect Strangers (2017) and British biographical drama A Street Cat Named Bob (2016). Although both films were already available on local streaming platforms, Huahua managed to market them to substantial theatrical profit. Perfect Strangers earned $8.1 million in May, and A Street Cat Named Bob brought in $7.6 million in December — making China the biggest international market for both films nearly two years after their original release.