National fund unveils multinational slate
By Patrick Frater
Tue, 19 June 2012, 07:30 AM (HKT)
Chinese movie fund National Film Capital 國影投資基金 is to pour some $230 million into a slate of film projects, including Stan LEE's Chinese superhero project The Annihilator 中國超級英雄, as well as a programme of cinema building operations.
Kathy PENG, co-founder of National Film Capital, said that the fund is raising finance in three tranches, of RMB80 million ($12.7 million), RMB360 million ($57 million) and RMB1 billion ($159 million). The first two tranches have raised cash from Chinese and Hong Kong investors and have now closed.
The fund's capital will be disbursed as debt or equity that is "neither first nor last" in to a project. Although she did not reveal any absolute cash ceilings, Peng said that the fund will cap its investment at 40% of a film's budget.
The kinds of projects it is seeking to back are large, globally commercial projects that have a Chinese story and can be told with US quality scripts and styles. NFC may favour either English-language or Chinese-language titles and has already put RMB20 million ($3.2 million) into Painted Skin: The Resurrection 畫皮Ⅱ, the fantasy action film that was the opener of the Shanghai festival.
"Our aim is to take a global view and to minimise risk," said managing director WANG Guowei 王國偉. "We don't want to only do hardware or software investment. We'll place an emphasis on talent." Yang said that the fund will also include a P&A funding component. Other presenters said that co-productions will be favoured and that the fund may act as a bridge between the Chinese and overseas industries.
The largest financial commitment to date is to The Annihilator, on which NFC will be a Chinese producer and a global partner. The film, scripted by Dan GILROY and envisaged as the first of three pictures in a Chinese superhero franchise, has a budget of $120 million. It has been developed by Eric MIKA's Magic Storm Entertainment LLC with development finance from Hong Kong's Rocco Capital. China's One Gate Capital is also aboard. Lee was not present at the Shanghai announcement, but sent a video message.
The Dragon's Scroll, a 3-D project, based on CrossGen Comics property Way Of The Rat, that was previously developed by DreamWorks and was acquired from Disney. The fast-paced action-fantasy that goes heavy on the martial arts is produced by Shimon Arama and directed by two-time Oscar-winner Charlie GIBSON from a script by Chuck RUSSELL. Production is expected to get underway in November with the $80 million plus picture structured as a China-France-Spain-Canada co-production that may also lead to a spin-off TV series.
Genghis Khan, an epic tale of the 8th century warlord, his defeat in battle, recovery while in exile and triumphant return as conqueror of Mongolia and Peking. The film is written and to be produced by Peter DOYLE, with pre-production scheduled to start in January and production get underway in Spring 2013. Doyle said that he is in advanced negotiations with a major director and that the film will boast a budget of $100 million including P&A.
The Bombing of Chongqing 重慶大轟炸, a big-budget drama about the sustained Japanese bombing of the inland Chinese city over a period of five years, to be made in Chinese by director Xiao Feng and produced by Wang Chuan.
The Tibet Code 藏地密碼, an English language film based on the series of detective books by HE Ma 何馬 that were best sellers in Chinese and English. NFC said that it had acquired adaptation rights to the series, and envisaged producing up to six films each with budgets of over $80 million and Warner Bros as a partner.
Silent Flute, a $25 million action-fantasy, set in a post-apocalyptic future and in which a seeker embarks on a hero's journey to a city which may have survived the apocalypse. The film, which includes a significant martial arts component, is based on the last script by the late Bruce LEE 李小龍. Producer Allan HATCHER reports that he has obtained the go-ahead from the Lee family estate and expects to move into production in 2013.
1421, a historical adventure focusing on Chinese admiral Zheng He, adapted from the controversial Gavin Menzies bestseller 1421: The Year China Discovered The World.
Devil's Right Hand 惡魔右手, a Chinese-language picture to be produced by Hong Kong's WONG Jing 王晶, directed by WANG Guangli 王光利 and star Jordan CHAN 陳小春 and Simon YAM 任達華. Production is set to get underway in September in Shanghai.
Painted Skin: Resurrection.
Previously known as China Mainstream, the fund aims to recoup its money in a period of three to five years. That period will likely coincide with the peak rate of new cinema building in China. The country, which is still severely under-screened for the size of its population, currently has some 9,000 screens operated by 43 cinema circuits. NFC says it may earmark up to 25% of its capital for its participation in the next round of cinema building.
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