Chinese Movie Giants Buy Stake in L.A. Distribution Company

The large companies Huayi Brothers Media Corp. and Bona Film Group acquire a stake in the year-old China Lion Distribution

Two of China's largest movie companies in China have bought a stake in a Los Angeles-based company that distributes Chinese films in the United States. The goal: to bring more American movies to China and co-finance more Chinese films.

China Lion Distribution, now partially owned by Huayi Brothers Media Corp. and Bona Film Group, is on the hunt for projects that resonate beyond China.

"We're looking for stories that will work in China and also have the ability to travel outside of China," Milt Barlow, China Lion's CEO, told TheWrap Monday.

Barlow said that Huayi Brothers and Bona Film Group "are really the Warners and the Fox of China."

Now in its second year of operation, China Lion already has an agreement with AMC Entertainment to distribute Chinese movies in the United States.

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It generally distributes to about 35 movie theaters, mostly in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Toronto and Vancouver, Barlow said.

"If a film breaks out, we've got the ability to take it to a wider audience," he said.

With Huayi Brothers and Bona as partners, though, it'll be able to do more than that, he said.

"The joining together of such large studios and powerhouses like Huayi Brothers and Bona gives us an expanded product range and expanded reach and allows us to expand our distribution in North America and beyond — to the U.K. and Europe," he said.

In addition to Los Angeles, China Lion has offices in Toronto, Sydney, Beijing and Auckland.

It has released a dozen movies, including the Chinese films "Aftershock," "If You Are the One 2," "What Women Want" and "The Beginning of the Great Revival."

Chinese companies are increasingly looking to partner with Hollywood — and vice versa.

Earlier this year, the Chinese media conglomerate DMG announced a $300 million film fund to help co-finance Hollywood movies in China. Relativity Media also recently announced a Chinese production and distribution partnership. Legendary Entertainment, through its Legendary East, plans a $220.5 million investment in a filmmaking venture aimed at the Chinese market.