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Warner Bros. Will Produce Chinese-Language Movies

Studio’s deal with China Media Capital shows Beijing’s fiscal crisis hasn’t cooled Hollywood’s love affair with most populous country

China’s fiscal woes aren’t cooling Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with that country’s booming film industry, as Warner Bros. this weekend sealed a funding deal with China Media Capital to produce Chinese-language movies.

The new company, Flagship Entertaiment, will be headquartered in Hong Kong with CMC taking the majority stake. Warner Bros. will get 49 percent ownership and provide filmmaking expertise, with the Chinese entertainment-focused investment firm providing the funding. Their first film could be released as early as next year, the two companies said late Saturday.

Despite the economic shockwaves from July’s market meltdown, China’s box office continues to show explosive growth, with domestic grosses rising 49 percent from last year in the first half of 2015.

Homegrown movies like “Monster Hunt” and “Pancake Man” are playing an increasingly large part in the expansion, and Flagship reflects their growing significance globally and in China.

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara said that the country’s “incredibly rich history and culture provide a huge trove of great stories, and we want to help tell those stories for new generations of film goers, in China and around the world.”

The Warner-CMC venture is the latest in a series of deals between Hollywood entertainment, media and finance companies and their Chinese counterparts. CMC earlier cut a deal with IMAX Corp. and teamed with DreamWorks Animation to create DreamWorks Oriental, which is producing “Kung Fu Panda 3.”

And Chinese conglomerate Fosun International is the dominant shareholder in Studio 8, the production company launched by former Warner Bros. studio boss Jeff Robinov.

Universal is building a $3.3 billion theme park in Beijiing that is expected to open in 2019. Lionsgate signed a $375 million financing deal with Hunan TV to produce movies and TV programs earlier year and has a TV licensing deal with China e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Dick Cook Studios received $150 million from Citic Guoan and Robert Simonds’ STX cut a three-year deal with Huayi Brothers Media to produce 18 films.