Shanghai Film Festival: Marketing Exec Al Ovadia Sets Up China-focused Studio LABS

Shanghai Skyline H 2014

LABS has signed a strategic joint venture with the Shenzhen-based $300-million film fund Hotland.

Veteran marketing executive Al Ovadia has announced the formation of a China-focused studio, LABS(Los Angeles-Beijing Studios), to focus on merchandising and licensing in Chinese co-productions.

LABS has signed a strategic joint venture with the Chinese film fund Hotland Film Ventures with investments over $300 million for the studio’s initial China-US co-production funding.

The studio will be headquartered in Los Angeles, but with offices and operations in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei.

"Merchandising, franchising and global co-productions which we call our ‘Golden Triangle’ is LABS’ primary strategic model. We believe that the LABS model of integrating merchandising and licensing beginning as early as the script stage will impact US-China co-productions artistically and financially," said Ovadia.

Ovadia previously headed the licensing department at 20th Century Fox, overseeing global licensing, operations, product placement, branding and promotions in addition to helming the interactive division. Later as executive vp consumer products, he managed of the Spider-man franchise.

Others involved in the venture include producers Who Framed Roger Rabbit producer Frank Marshall, Taiwan-based producer Steve ChicorelFuntoons Animation chief Greg Manwaring, legal counsel Steven Peña and Sriram Das. LABS is also in talks with X-Men producer Tom DeSanto.

"LABS' competitive advantage is in our proven ability to develop blockbuster projects that also qualify as co-productions in China. Ultimately, as we sync with the China government, we hope to help inspire movie fans internationally to enjoy and pursue other Chinese content films," said Ovadia.

Shenzhen-based Hotland Film Ventures is financially backed in part by the venture capital company Shenzhen Ventures, the Beijing Film Academy and the Youth Film Studio in Beijing.

“At first LABS’ well-developed slate of intellectual property caught our attention and then we took some time to learn more about their management’s straightforward ‘Golden Triangle Strategy’ for China and the rest of the world: co-production, franchisability, merchandising, which clinched our interest to invest," Hotland chairman Zhang Hongwei said in a statement.

LABS has assembled over 100 intellectual properties in its development pipeline led by Das, including 20 completed screenplays, and the new studio is actively engaged with the Chinese government to clear its slate.

"The first phase of our production plan includes sci-fi, fantasy, animation, action-adventure and star studded thrillers," said Das.