Sequels have become second nature in Hollywood. In an era where franchises are growing larger and larger, it’s no wonder studios do their best to capitalize on momentum. But what about films that seemingly bomb in the US market that get second and third chapters anyway? That’s because we can’t discount the hundreds of billions of dollars these films pull in from the overseas markets, especially China.
The Chinese film industry has gone from very closed off and exclusive to knocking on Hollywood’s door as they continue to invest in major international projects and American talent. Warcraft is the most recent example, with the film opening to relatively low numbers here in the states ($27M) yet seeing $145M in its first four days of opening in China. Tencent Pictures, a Chinese company that started as Internet giant before expanding into the film industry, was a major investor in Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft.
As Tencent’s film arm celebrates its one year anniversary, Variety has confirmed that American juggernaut writer and producer David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Constantine, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) will be developing several projects for the booming Chinese company. While Goyer has not been attached to any specific films just yet, it is likely that he will be part of international and local projects for Tencent Pictures. Goyer isn’t the first big name to ink a deal like this with a large Chinese company. In late August, the Russo Brothers (directors of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War) announced their partnership with Huayi Brothers Media Corporation to open a small film studio in Beijing in order to capitalize on the “diversity of storytelling” available in the Chinese market.
People China has stated there are 21 new projects on Tencent Pictures to-do list, which are all adaptations of popular Chinese stories from comics, novels, cartoons, and video games. The Chinese film industry has started to move away from its invest only approach in Hollywood projects and has begun offer Hollywood talent the opportunity spread their wings in a, surprisingly, more open concept market. Last year, a spokesperson for Tencent Pictures told Variety that, “As a company we have such huge reach and such a wide number of intellectual properties, the idea behind Tencent Pictures is to help expand our smart platform capabilities and harness big data.”
In addition to partnering with Legendary Pictures on Warcraft, Tencent also has a large stake in Kong: Skull Island. The Great Wall, a film that has already garnered controversy of its casting of Matt Damon, is going to be yet another film test to see just how much gets lost in translation. Alibaba Group, another massive Chinese Internet company, has also branched out into the film industry announcing 17 feature projects in the works through new partnerships with established production companies, including large investments in Paramount (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Beyond).
What big data is telling these enterprising studios is that the Chinese market is 3-times the size of the US market, and that Hollywood talent is looking for opportunities to stretch their creative muscle. It will be interesting to watch the development of truly global blockbusters to see how the shape of the film industry changes.