Steven Spielberg's Amblin Pacts With China's Alibaba Pictures Group

Steven Spielberg Jack Ma Split - Getty - H 2016
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The legendary director joined Alibaba boss Jack Ma at a signing ceremony in Beijing that will see Alibaba Pictures take an equity stake in Amblin.

Amblin Partners and China's Alibaba Pictures Group have entered into a strategic partnership to co-produce and finance films for global and Chinese audiences. 

At a glitzy event Sunday in Beijing, attended by Steven Spielberg and Alibaba Group chief Jack Ma, the companies said they also will collaborate on the marketing, distribution and merchandising of Amblin's films in China. Alibaba Pictures also will have the option to co-finance Amblin films worldwide.

Under the terms of the deal, Alibaba Pictures will acquire an unspecified minority equity stake in Amblin with an Alibaba representative joining Amblin's board. 

Alibaba Pictures joins India's Reliance, Canda's eOne and Jeff Skoll's Participant Media as equity holders in Amblin Partners, which was established in December.

Joining Ma onstage for an informal talk, Spielberg said that he hoped the partnership would "bring more of America to China, and bring more of China to America." 

Ma praised Spielberg's storytelling abilities and how his style resonated with Chinese audiences. "I don’t think there are many differences between East and West — the only difference is that the West is better at telling stories," said Ma, adding that Alibaba Pictures hoped to learn more from Spielberg and Amblin

Jeff Small, president and co-CEO of Amblin, also was in Beijing for the signing ceremony. Small confirmed the Alibaba deal was the Amblin's first alliance in China and that both companies had been speaking for several months. 

Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei said that the partnership will begin with the marketing and distribution of the Spielberg-directed The BFG, which is set for release Friday in China.

The fledgling Chinese film studio already has invested in several high-profile Hollywood projects including Star Trek Beyond, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and most recently Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. 

Amblin's upcoming slate of films includes comedy A Dog's Purpose, to be released Jan. 27, and sci-fi adventure film Ready Player One, based on the best-selling book by Ernest Cline and directed by Spielberg. The pic, starring Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Tye Sheridan, is slated to hit theaters March 30, 2018.