Shanghai Film Group Close to Sealing Major Deals With U.S. Studios (Report)

Ren Zhonglun Shanghai Film Group Chairman P

SFG chief Ren Zhonglun said the studio is in talks about involvement in the "Spider-Man" and "Iron Man" franchises, while Chinese superhero film "Rise of the Terracotta Warriors" is closer to fruition.

Shanghai Film Group, China's second-largest film studio, is in advanced talks on teaming with U.S. studios on major film projects, president Ren Zhonglun told a newspaper.

He said the state-owned group was reaching a "critical stage" of cooperation with a number of major U.S. studios, including Paramount Pictures and Disney's Marvel, on high-end global projects.

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"Even in the last month of 2013 and the first month of this year, there have been people from Paramount and Marvel and Pinewood Studios coming to talk to us 'to throw the embroidery ball,'" Ren told the Shanghai Morning Post newspaper, using a Chinese idiom which means "to choose a partner."

"A lot of projects have reached a practical stage," said Ren.

Shanghai Film Group is in talks about involvement in the Spider-Man and Iron Man franchises, while another project reaching an advanced stage is The Rise of the Terracotta Warriors. SFG could not be reached for comment.

There has been a increasing closeness between China and Hollywood of late, but it has yet to translate into many significant projects. Expectations are running high in both industries for 2014 to be the year that Chinese studios start to expand into financing and co-producing major films with overseas companies.

Terracotta Warriors is a pet project of former Marvel chief Avi Arad, who previously announced a link-up with tycoon Bruno Wu's Seven Stars Media on the movie.

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The Terracotta Warriors are thousands of terracotta statues of fighters with their horses and chariots, which were discovered in Xi'an in northern China more than 2,200 years ago. Archeologists believe they were built to guard China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife.

The project sees the warriors transplanted into modern society at a time when aliens are invading and the world needs them.

A number of big-name studios, including Legendary, have been chasing the great Chinese superhero project, expecting it will work in the world's second-largest film market, China, but also translate into overseas revenue.

If a deal comes together, Pinewood Studio would cooperate with Shanghai Film Group to transform Shanghai's Chedun studio into a "film city" with first-class international shooting facilities, said Ren, who is a long-time champion and financier of director Jia Zhangke.

"We expect production at Shanghai Film Group to double. We have built 1,300 screens in 85 cities. Our total box office last year was over 2 billion yuan ($330 million), which is nearly 10 percent of national box office," said Ren.

He has also been working with Shanghai-born Hollywood veteran Mike Medavoy on an adaptation of Chinese novelist Bei La’s The Cursed Piano, a story about Jewish refugees seeking assistance in the city during World War II, directed by Barry Levinson, written by Ronald Harwood and lensed by Wong Kar Wai's frequent cinematographer Christopher Doyle.