Legend 3D Seeks to Establish China Unit

Ian Jessel

The Hollywood-based 2D to 3D conversion company is looking to expand its footprint in the world's fastest-growing 3D market.

Hollywood-based visual FX company Legend 3D is hoping to establish an operation in China converting 2D projects to 3D, building on the success of the format in the world's second-biggest film market.

"We are keen to establish an operation in China, and the main purpose of this trip is to find a strategic partner," Ian Jessel, president of Legend 3D, told The Hollywood Reporter during a visit to Beijing. His trip will also take him to South Korea and Japan.

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China's box office boom has been driven by 3D and enhanced formats -- of the 13,118 screens in China at the end of last year, 72 percent are 3D screens.

"We are very eager to expand our operations into Asia, especially China, and we would be thrilled to establish relationships with Chinese producers and distributors, and in that case we would be carrying out a lot of the conversion work in China," said Jessel.

Legend 3D was involved in some of the most successful 3D conversions of the summer in China, including Man of Steel and Smurfs 2. The group has also just completed the 3D conversion of The Walt Disney Company's The Little Mermaid.

"We are very conscious of expanding internationally. The market for 3D is on an upward curve in Asia, which shows no sign of abating.

"China is becoming more internationally minded and we want to be part of the number-two market in the world. Ideally, this will happen within the next 12 months," said Jessel.

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Legend 3D has had its most successful year so far in 2013, already shaping up to outstrip last year's record performance when the group did around one conversion a month.

The second biggest movie in China last year was James Cameron's 3D version of Titanic, which took in $156.5 million at the box office. His 3D epic Avatar still holds the record, with the $220 million it took in 2010 -- at a time when the country's 3D infrastructure wasn't nearly as developed as it is now.

One of the two Chinese films to make the top 10 box office last year was the 3D Painted Skin: The Resurrection."

Other big hits in China that Legend has worked on include Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which took in a muscular $170 million to make it China's highest-earning movie in 2011.

Hollywood movies were given a major boost in China after the quota of foreign films in Chinese theaters was increased in February from around 20 to 34, including 3D and Imax movies.

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Before joining Legend 3D, Jessel was a founding president of Miramax International, president and CEO of Nelson Entertainment International; vice president of CBS Films; and managing director of ITC Entertainment. Among the movies he has worked on are Pulp Fiction and Bullets Over Broadway.

Jessel took over as president last year from Legend founder Barry Sandrew, who is the firm's chief creative officer and chief technology officer.