Massive Piracy Helps Russian Movie Gain Chinese Distribution Deal

He Is a Dragon still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Bazelevs

Bazelevs and Youngle Pictures agree to China release of 'He Is a Dragon' after the romantic fantasy is downloaded illegally more than 5.6 million times.

The producers of Russian fantasy film On - Drakon (He Is a Dragon) have turned piracy to their advantage after signing a distribution deal with China's Youngle Pictures, part of YL Entertainment, the country's largest cinema holding company.

The film — a romantic fantasy about Princess Miroslava, who is abducted by a dragon on her wedding day and taken to an island castle — has been downloaded illegally in China more than 5.6 million times, attracting 270,000 comments on social media, since it was released in Russia last December, according to figures from Moscow-based production and distribution company Bazelevs.

Producers at Bazelevs, a company founded by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov, realized that such figures were less of a threat than a commercial advantage and struck at deal with Youngle Pictures to distribute the film across its wide network of cinemas.

Bazelevs said that the level of piracy and comments comparing the film favorably with Games of Thrones and Twilight suggested there was strong potential for a theatrical release.

"We believe Youngle Pictures will bring a diversified approach to the promotional campaign and has sufficient resources for distributing the film across 10,000 screens in China," said producer Igor Tsai. "We hope this deal with be the beginning of long-term cooperation."

Youngle president Wan Jun said his company sees potential for developing merchandising, including "comics and mobile apps."

Youngle Pictures is part of China's YL Entertainment, which is the country's official distributor for Universal Pictures.