Iron Man is blasting off for Asia.
"Iron Man 3" will be co-produced in China, The Walt Disney Company, Marvel Studios and DMG Entertainment said Monday.
The move is the latest in a series of co-ventures between Chinese companies and Hollywood studios that the movie business hopes will give it greater access to the country's burgeoning economy and massive population of film-goers.
China still aggressively controls the number of U.S. films that are distributed in its borders, but it has begun to loosen its restrictions. As part of a recent trade agreement, China said in February that it would increase the number of U.S. films allowed into the country by 50 percent.
In response, the film business has been rapidly unveiling a series of ambitious Chinese investments and initiatives. Last week, Disney announced it formed a partnership with the Chinese ministry of culture’s animation group and Internet service provider Tencent to create animated content for China and international markets.
The company's theme park division has also been active in the country. Disney broke ground in April, 2011 on Shanghai Disney, a $4.4 billion resort. The first section of the park is scheduled to open in 2015.
Previous big studio films such as "The Karate Kid" remake and "Kung Fu Panda" were set in China in an effort to broaden their appeal to Chinese audiences and improve their chances of getting approved by the country's strict censors. Foreign films produced in the country have another benefit — they are not subject to China's restrictions on the number of films it imports.
However, this is the first tentpole franchise of this stature to capitalize not only on Chinese locations, but also Chinese capital.
Based out of Beijing, DMG boasts close ties with the state-run China Film Group. Under the pact, the company will invest in the production of the film, manage the Chinese co-production process and jointly produce the film in China. It will also distribute the film in the country.
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle will return for the third installment in the superhero franchise. Ben Kingsley has reportedly been tapped to play the villain in the film. Shane Black ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") is directing the script he is working on with Drew Pearce ("No Heroics").
Shooting kicks off this May in the United States. Location filming in China will begin in late summer. The film hits theaters on May 3, 2013.