The Chinese media conglomerate DMG has put together a $300 million tentpole fund to bring U.S. movies to China, TheWrap has learned.
DMG is shopping the fund — which has the backing of a major Wall Street bank and several hedge funds — to several studios, an individual close to the negotiations told TheWrap.
According to the individual, the company has relationships with Chinese officials and the government-operated China Film Group, and plans to co-finance studio tentpoles, investing as much as 15 percent of the negative costs of those movies. In exchange, it will own all the revenues from mainland China — and nothing else.
There are a few strings attached: The movies must be Chinese "co-productions," under that nation's rules. For films to qualify as Chinese co-productions, they must include at least one Chinese actor and have at least one sequence filmed in China.
They also can't be overtly political or controversial.
The company, which plans to be involved in the movies from the start, has had success with co-productions before it formed the film fund. It teamed with Endgame Entertainment on "Looper," a time-travel movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and — to keep it kosher for the Chinese government, Chinese actress Xu Qing.
That movie is scheduled for a September 2012 release.
DMG apparently hopes to do with studio films what it did for "Looper." As originally written, that movie was set in France. Once Endgame and DMG began working together, the script was retooled for China — even though producers spent only four days shooting there.
Christopher Chen, Endgame's vice president of business development, said that on "Looper," DMG was "good to work with and they delivered on everything from a financing standpoint to a production standpoint to logistics standpoint. Everything."
He declined to comment on the company's film fund.
DMG also is looking to expand its business of helping studios import movies to China.
It's been succesful doing that: DMG partnered with Sony to release "Resident Evil: Afterlife" in China and with Summit to release "Twilight" and "Red" there. It also was involved with "Killers" and "The Eagle," among others.
DMG apparently has no immediate plans to finance movies it will import to China. Rather it will split the profits of those films.
China has about 7,200 movie screens, and the number is expected to more than double by 2013. But the market is tough to crack: The Chinese government limits the number of foreign films it allows into the country to 20 — and determines which movies can come in.
DMG produced the No. 1 Chinese films "The Founding of a Republic" and "Go Lola Go!"
Chris Fenton, general manager of DMG's Los Angeles office, did not return calls to his office.