Last week, Paramount Pictures deepened ties with two of its Chinese partners, as the studio signed a strategic agreement that will have China’s Huahua Media and Shanghai Film Group co-finance the studio’s full slate of films over the next three years. But maybe as important as the funding — which could add up to as much as $1 billion — is Paramount’s ability to piggyback on their marketing might, which could help the studio continue to cash in inside the Middle Kingdom.
Huahua has served as an investor and marketing partner in several previous Paramount films, including “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which became the highest-grossing movie of all time in China with $320 million at the box office when it was released in 2014. Shanghai Film Group was also an investor in “Jack Reacher.”
Huahua CEO Kefei Wang, who has distributed more than 40 films in his decade in the film industry, said one key to the success of movies like “Transformers” and “Star Trek Beyond” in the Chinese market was enlisting pop stars to come up with custom songs, a tactic he said Huahua came up with.
“[Huahua] actually introduced the concept of having popular pop singers perform theme songs for all these incoming imported films,” Wang told TheWrap through a translator. “Becuse a lot of people catch on to our marketing ploys — because they see it has some level of success — we get copied quite frequently. Huahua has to always push the envelope.”
For “Star Trek Beyond,” which made a healthy $65 million in China, Huahua developed an integration with popular Chinese variety show “Happy Camp.”
Wang said the previous one-off deals were part of “building the steps of this larger cooperation between [Huahua], Shanghai Film and Paramount,” and that the larger agreement “made a lot of sense to have the synergy between the three companies.” As part of the deal, Huahua and Shanghai Film Group will jointly staff an office on the Paramount lot. Wang couldn’t share what exactly will be happening out of that office or who’s going to be working there, but said it’s all part of “cultural change as our China film industry and Hollywood gets closer.”
“This deal made sense for Huahua,” he said. “It was always our goal to partake in the world film market.”
While certain types of Hollywood films have become reliable performers at the Chinese box office — the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Fast and Furious” franchise are especially popular there — Chinese films haven’t really made much of an impact in the U.S. even as the country’s box office continues to grow exponentially. Wang believes that will come in time.
“We are still in the beginning stages of China-U.S. film relations,” he said. “There still needs to be more time to have an exchange of technologies and storytelling methods so we can really bring Chinese-language films to the rest of the world.”
Wang said he’s excited by Paramount’s entire slate, but there’s one movie he’s clearly eyeing that should be a monster hit in China.
“One particular film is of course ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ with ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ breaking the record,” he said. “That’s definitely the tentpole that we’re most looking forward to. We have many marketing ploys [to roll out].”