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Relativity Sets Chinese Production/Distribution Partnership

Studio enters partnership with several top Chinese investment arms and entertainment companies to co-produce films and distribute in China; it remains unclear as to how much cash Relativity will net

Relativity on Sunday announced a deal with several of China's biggest entertainment companies to co-produce films with "Chinese material," as well as distribute its films in China.

Through an agreement with IDG China Media, the China-focused investment arm of Boston-headquarted International Data Group, and leading Asian Private Equity Firm IDG, Relativity has signed on as a partner in a venture called SkyLand to develop, produce, distribute and acquire Chinese material that "possesses worldwide appeal," a Relativity statement read.

SkyLand, in turn, has ties to China's $100 million RMB fund, which funds local production.

According to the announcement, the parties are already working on numerous projects which will bring "well-known Chinese folklore" to the big screen.

Relativity will distribute all of its future films in China, including "Immortals," "Haywire," "Act of Valor," "The Raven," and its "Untitled Snow White Project," through SkyLand. 

“China is the fastest-growing film market in the world, with over 6,000 screens and over $1.5 billion in box office revenue last year, an increase of over 60 percent last year alone," said Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh, in a statement. "We’re excited to be entering into this booming market …"

Speaking at a Sunday-evening press conference, Kavanaugh noted the impact of having China's goverment involved in the partnership.

Not only does Relativity have a "voice" in the country's censorship process, Kavanaugh seemed to indicate that the studio's films would be able to circumvent the Chinese quota of 20 foreign films entering the country each year.

"Anybody can say they've partnered with a [Chinese] distribution company, but nobody can say they've partnered with the government," Kavanaugh added.

Here's Relativity's press release:

Relativity Teams with SAIF Partners and IDG China Media to Build a Global Content & Distribution Company

Deal Announced on Heels of Strategic Partnership with Huaxia Film Distribution Company

SAIF Partners and IDG China Media Bring Relativity Media in as Partner of SkyLand Film and Television Cultural Development Ltd. (“SkyLand”), which Will Serve as the Platform for Their Future China Film Endeavors

(Beijing, China) August 14, 2011 – SAIF Partners, a leading Asian Private Equity Firm, and IDG China Media, a China-focused investment arm of Boston-headquartered International Data Group (IDG), and Relativity Media announced today that they have formed a partnership to develop, produce, distribute and acquire Chinese material that also possesses worldwide appeal.

Relativity will distribute all of its future films in China, including Immortals, Haywire, Act of Valor, Relativity’s Untitled Snow White Project, and The Raven, through SkyLand. SkyLand is a fully-funded, vertically-integrated film andmultimedia production, distribution and financing company, which was jointly owned and controlled by SAIF Partners and IDG China Media, andnowis also owned byRelativity. SkyLand is also partnered with a China-based RMB fund to co-invest in local film and television content and production, which is the equivalent of $100 million US dollars. The parties are already working on numerous projects which will bring well-known Chinese folklore and content to the big screen and to audiences worldwide.

SkyLand functioned as SAIF Partners and IDG China Media's entertainment arm, and most-recently co-produced Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, inspired by the worldwide best-selling novel by Lisa See, with screenplay penned by Academy Award® winning writer Ron Bass (Amelia) and directed by Wayne Wong (The Joy Luck Club). Backed by two leading investment firms in China and now co-owned by Relativity Media, SkyLand is on track to grow into a competitive production and distribution entity at the forefront of American and Chinese entertainment and media. SkyLand was formed by SAIF and IDG over two years ago and has been very active in and at the forefront of the Chinese film and television business.

“China is the fastest-growing film market in the world, with over 6,000 screens and over $1.5 billion in box office revenue last year, an increase of over 60% last year alone. We’re excited to be entering into this booming market with such great partners in SAIF, IDG and our new strategic partnership with Huaxia. Given the substantial platform created by SAIF and IDG in SkyLand, we believe together we can grow a distribution business in China which brings global product to China, and brings Chinese product to the global market,” said Relativity’s CEO, Ryan Kavanaugh.

Andy Yan, Managing Partner of SAIF and a large investor in SkyLand and Relativity said, "The China entertainment industry has become one of the fastest and most lucrative industries in China today. Until now, there has been a major void in bridging the two worlds of the Americanand Chinesefilm industries. After spending significant time learning about Relativity's business and how they approach the international markets, we couldn't be more pleased to have entered into what will undoubtedly be a revolutionary shift in the China film business as we know it. Relativity's business model has revolutionized the film business in the US, and this partnership will do the same for China."

Hugo Shong, Founding General Partner of IDG China Media and a co-financier of SkyLand said, “We couldn't be more excited about creating this revolutionary partnership, and simultaneously entering into a strategic partnership with Huaxia, who has successfully distributed such films as Harry Potter, Transformers, Kung-Fu Panda, Fast Five, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2012, Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes and many others in China."