South Korea's Showbox and China's Huayi Bros. Ink Co-Production Deal

Wang Zhonglei Huayi Brothers P

The two Asian giants will co-produce at least six films over the next three years.

Top South Korean investment-distribution firm Showbox/Mediaplex signed an exclusive agreement with China's Huayi Brothers, Showbox announced on Thursday. The two will co-produce at least six titles during the next three years.

The pact, signed on Wednesday, kick-starts Showbox's foray into the ever-expanding Chinese film market, which has seen an average annual growth rate of about 30 percent over the past five years. Last October during the Busan Film Festival, Showbox had announced plans to launch a branch in the neighboring Asian country this year. The latest partnership will help establish the local unit, Showbox China. It was not disclosed when the Chinese branch would open.

Under the contract, Showbox will be in charge of selecting projects, which Showbox China will then further develop for local tastes and standards. Showbox and Huayi Bros. will jointly make investment decisions based on the finalized script. At least six such projects will be co-produced with major Chinese film studios through 2018, which Huyai Bros. will then market and distribute in China.

"I am confident that this partnership will allow Showbox to positively establish itself as a brand in China, and furthermore, ensure future profits," said Showbox CEO Yoo Jeong-hun.

Yoo added that he hopes to gain greater access to key Asian markets by utilizing the production capacity and wide distribution network of Huayi Bros., which has been behind four of China's top 10 highest grossing films of all time.

"It is truly meaningful to have this opportunity to produce and distribute Korean films, which are globally competitive, in China," said Wang Zhonglei, head of Huayi Bros.

The two companies are not new to working together, and co-produced the ambitious 2013 sports drama Mr. Go 3D. It brought in $16.73 million (18.2 billion won) in China, or twice as much as in Korea ($8.46 million or 9.2 billion won).

The deal also marks the latest in a series of cross-border partnerships being tightly forged between Korea and China. Chinese firms have sought Korean know-how and content, while Korean filmmakers have eyed opportunities to expand beyond the saturated domestic market. A landmark treaty signed at state level allows Korea-China co-productions to be treated as local films in both countries, thereby allowing them to be exempt from screen quota restrictions.

Huayi Bros has been busy of late, signing up with Hollywood's STX for a prospective 18-picture deal. That deal came after others fell through, most notably taking a $120 million-$150 million stake in Jeff Robinov's new film company, Studio 8, but those talks unraveled before China's Fosun stepped in with a $200 million capital injection.