Chinese Smartphone Giant Xiaomi, Huayi Brothers Partner on Film Venture

Wang Zhonglei, president of Huayi Brothers

The startup film company, named New Saint, will initially focus on screenwriting and talent development.

Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi has made an undisclosed investment in a startup film venture backed by Chinese movie studio Huayi Brothers Media. 

Xiaomi's investment in the new banner, dubbed New Saint, was unveiled in Beijing. Huayi Brothers is said to have been one of the earliest investors in the year-old startup film company. Financial details of both companies' stakes in New Saint have not been disclosed.

"Xiaomi will make more investment[s] to build one of the biggest video content pools in the industry," Xiamoi CEO Lei Jun told state-backed newspaper China Daily. "It is important for us to beat competitors," he added, explaining that the deal is part of a broader strategy of winning over customers with content, not just smartphone and smart TV hardware.

Xiaomi is the latest major Chinese tech company to try to tap into China's booming film industry, which saw theatrical box office expand 48 percent last year. Search giant Baidu, e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and tech titan Tencent have all launched or acquired multi-faceted entertainment subsidiaries in recent years.

Beijing-based Xiaomi is the world's fourth-largest smartphone producer by sales volume and market share, behind Apple, Samsung and Huawei, respectively, according to International Data Corporation. One of the company's top rivals in the hardware space, LeTV, launched a film studio of its own, LeVision Pictures, back in 2011, so Xiaomi has some catching up to do.

In Nov. 2014, Xiaomi announced that it would invest $1 billion in TV and video content in an effort to diversify from its core hardware business by also owning a piece of the content beamed to its phones. The company followed the announcement with a $300 million investment in Baidu-owned streaming video service iQiyi, followed by an additional tie-up with competing online video platform Youku Tudou.

New Saint will focus initially on screenwriting and talent development. "We want to promote screenwriting, and the significance of screenwriters to film projects," Tian Yusheng, a co-founder of New Saint and screenwriter (Lost on a Journey), told the Chinese state press.

The venture has already recruited several established Chinese filmmakers, including cinematographer and director Gu Changwei (Farewell My Concubine, Love on the Cloud) and Guan Hu (Mr. Six) to serve in supervisory and consulting roles.