U.S. Studios Deploy More Executive Firepower to China

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Michael Andreen

UPDATED: As Hollywood increasingly looks to China, executives who understand the culture and business practices there have become incredibly valuable.

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Hollywood's obsession with China is creating a new class of executive: Asia ambassador. Sources say Fox International Productions has hired Michael Andreen, a Disney veteran who has spent much of the past year in China working to foster U.S.-Chinese co-productions, to serve as senior vp production under FIP head Sanford Panitch.

Although based in Los Angeles, Andreen's experience in China will make him especially valuable. His appointment comes as all of the major studios now have offices in Beijing with a mandate to make inroads in film, home entertainment, TV, digital and theme parks. (Universal, the last holdout, has lured Jo Yan from Disney to run its new Beijing operation.) And on July 28, Disney named studio veteran Paul Candland to the newly created post of president of Disney's entire Asia operation, overseeing China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

"Everybody is in the same place. China is simply too big to avoid," says Panitch. On the U.S. studio lots, the thinking is that Andreen and his counterparts are invaluable in understanding the quirks of the China market, where the government controls distribution and marketing as well as the flow of money into film production.

The job of a China ambassador is to work with Chinese officials and financiers, and those who understand the culture and business practices in that country have become increasingly valuable. Andreen's focus will be co-productions, like FIP's Chinese-language remake of the 2009 Fox comedy Bride Wars, which is shooting in China (the studio already has a major presence in China with a focus on multiple areas, including FIP co-productions).

U.S. studios in particular want a piece of the local film business, considering Chinese titles now make up half of the country's box-office gross (or $1.8 billion in 2013). For instance, Panitch's division co-produced Hot Summer Days, a Chinese film that grossed $20 million in China in 2010. Andreen will be based in Los Angeles, and serve as Panitch's No. 2.