'Transformers: Age of Extinction' China Launch Marred by Legal Fight

Transformers Dark Spark Still - H 2014

Transformers Dark Spark Still - H 2014

While the premiere on June 27 now looks secure, Sid Ganis' Jiaflix is on the war path over Pangu Plaza's claims it cheated.

A spat between the producers of Transformers: Age of Extinction and Chinese investors involved in the movie appears to have been resolved after director Michael Bay and the owners of the iconic Pangu Plaza hotel in Beijing reached some kind of compromise.

Shortly before Age of Extinction’s Hong Kong world premiere, Pangu had threatened to use its considerable leverage with the government to delay or even halt the launch of the film, apparently over the way the hotel was depicted in the film, but then a sudden deal saw a compromise reached between Paramount and Pangu.

Speaking on Tencent QQ, a wildly popular Chinese chatroom, a Pangu Plaza spokesman said: “After our last press conference (on June 20), Paramount has contacted the other party involved and they communicated on the content of the agreement. We felt that Paramount was being sincere.”

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Everything seemed fine, after the initial complaint by the iconic hotel had threatened the June 27 premiere of the cyborg smashfest, which some industry figures say is looking at a possible $240 million ($1.5 billion) box office take in China, based on increasing returns from each installment.

Court documents filed at a district court in Chaoyang district in downtown Beijing show that Pangu is also suing a company called Jiafu China, which they say is part of Jiaflix, founded by veteran producer Sid Ganis, Marc Ganis and Kenneth Huang and another investor, Beijing Chengxin Shengshi Sports Culture Development Co. Jiaflix has been involved in the production since April 2013 but says any allegations that it is linked to Jiafu China are "completely false".

Jiaflix said in a defiant statement that it had held off responding to accusations, but could no longer stay silent.

“Through a major campaign to the media in China and in the United States, Pangu has falsely stated that a entity called Jiafu China Ltd is a part of or affiliated with Jiaflix Enterprises, LLC, the U.S.-based company that has participated in the production of the picture since April 2013. This is completely false.”

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It continued: “We do not understand why Pangu, which is presented in an extraordinary manner to the world in Michael Bay’s Transformers 4, would make such inaccurate assertions. Perhaps the answer is found in a court filing yesterday in which Pangu demanded $1.8 million and, if successful, would result in Pangu receiving all of the benefits and placement in the film for free.”

“Jiaflix and its partners, China Movie Channel and M1905, have worked in a harmonious, professional and cooperative manner with SARFT, China Film Group and all the relevant governmental authorities. The result is an exceptional movie that presents China extremely well to the world that will be enjoyed by millions of fans throughout China and the world,” the statement added.

The initial lawsuit was not especially clear in its aims, talking of “huge financial loss and bad reputation of our company” on Pangu’s part.

However, it seems to have centered on a wish to have an exhibit related to the movie in the film, and also that the hotel feature in the Chinese trailer.

The hotel is an icon near the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium and Water Cube Aquatic Center in the area of the city specially constructed for the 2008 Olympics. The hotel is a seven-star venue, and it has a suite of apartments on the penthouse, styled in a classic Chinese way, that one can rent for $1 million a night.

Paramount insisted Pangu Plaza had “a prominent placement in Transformers 4 and it looks beautiful onscreen” and hoped that they could resolve their concerns, which they appear to have done.

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“They have moved the Transformer exhibition to Pangu Plaza and put Pangu Plaza on the trailer. Out of respect to Paramount’s attitude and Michael Bay, we reached an agreement and didn’t want to affect the release of the film,” said the spokesman.

Bay at this stage must be wondering if courting the Chinese market is worth it, following two extortion attempts in Hong Kong and now this latest odd legal battle in China just before the film’s bow.

Bay was quoted as saying that he was happy with the solution.

“We must put the misunderstanding aside and look forward to this great film,” Bay told the press conference, to which overseas media were not invited.