Warner Bros. in Talks to Buy Universal's Stake in China's Oriental DreamWorks (Report)

Kung Fu Panda 3 - Still 2 - Po and his father Li - H 2016
Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

The Financial Times reported Sunday that NBCUniversal was considering selling its stake in the Chinese joint venture after differences of opinion about strategy with local co-owner China Media Capital.

Comcast's Universal Pictures is looking to sell its stake in Oriental DreamWorks, the Chinese joint venture studio it acquired when it bought Jeffery Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion last year.

The Financial Times reported Sunday that differences of opinion over strategy with the Shanghai-based animation studio's local co-owner, China Media Capital had put Universal "on course to offload its stake." A potential buyer, according to the Times, could be Warner Bros. The paper cited two unnamed sources as saying that CMC and Warner Bros. have held preliminary talks.

CMC and Warner Bros. are already in business together as co-owners of Flagship Entertainment, a joint venture Hong Kong and Beijing-based film studio established in 2015. Flagship's latest release, Paradox, a Hong Kong-Chinese action film, is currently in release, having earned $76.5 million since its opening Aug. 17. 

Universal owns 45 percent of Oriental DreamWorks, which was heralded as a landmark collaboration between Hollywood and China when it was unveiled by Katzenberg in 2012. But Universal is said to be less committed to the mini-studio, since it has other distribution and consumer products operations in China, as well as a major Universal Studios theme park project set to open in Beijing in 2020. 

According to the Times, Universal and China Media Capital have also reached an impasse over differences of opinion about the studio's strategy. 

"We talked about changing the strategy of Oriental DreamWorks and decreasing the size of the company in order to focus more on the creative side," CMC chairman Li Ruigang told the Times. "Also, I am focused more on China and less globally, while they want to make films in China for the world. Today, the priority of Universal is a theme park in Beijing."

Oriental DreamWorks' only release to date as a co-producer was Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016), which earned $143 million domestically, $154 million in China and $521 million globally. The studio contributed some production work to How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Home. Its next release as a co-producer will be Everest in 2019.