After the massive success of Captain America: Civil War, there can be no doubt that Joe and Anthony Russo are among the hottest directors in Hollywood today. The duo first received cinematic acclaim with Captain America: The Winter Soldier before taking over as the de facto leaders of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Joss Whedon’s departure post-Age of Ultron, overseeing much of the creative development for Marvel’s Phase 3 leading into back to back Avengers movies (beginning with 2018’s Infinity War). Of course, with the global marketplace for movies becoming smaller and smaller, being the hottest directors in Hollywood often means being some of the hottest directors in the world.
Foreign markets are playing an increasingly larger role in the bottom line of the movie business, which the Russo Brothers have been embracing with zeal in recent months. Already, the brothers have inked a deal with a Chinese production company to produce A Hero’s Awakening, which is being billed, in some circles, as “Captain China,” a nod to their success with the Captain America franchise. This news came shortly after the duo announced the opening of Anthem & Song, their own boutique studio located in Beijing to help tap into what experts believe will soon be the largest movie watching market in the world. At the time, Joe said that, “There’s more diversity of storytelling than you can find here right now,” to justify the move. Now, it seems that their embracing of the Chinese markets have paid off in a big way.
Deadline is reporting that the Russo Brothers have struck a deal with Chinese company Huayi Brothers Media Corporation to start a full service production and financing company after they finish with the next Avengers movies. The partnership is set to produce English language projects for global distribution in order to capitalize off the growing dominance of the international market. The new venture is said to be interested in high-concept, character-driven movies with a strong emphasis on storytelling. Huayi Brothers will be putting up $250 million in an initial investment meant to cover overhead and development, with an additional $100 in production funding.
Gateway Productions, the current banner the Russos use for production, will eventually fold into this new venture and Huayi Brothers will utilized their strong distribution ties in Asian markets to push any new Russo helmed/produced projects. The deal has no effect on Anthem & Song as of yet, though that may change over time. Huayi Brothers said that the roll out for the new company will be slow in order to allow the Russo Brothers to finish their commitment to Marvel.
The deal positions Huayi Brothers to become the largest entertainment distributor in what will eventually become the largest entertainment market in the world. Their partnership with the Russo brothers further positions them to expand their market share outside of the Asian markets, a further indication of China’s growing dominance on the filmmaking world. This is a reality that is going to have to be considered more and more as the years go on.
In recent years, China and the world box office markets have played an increasing role in studios looking to make a profit. Looking at Civil War, a mere $400 million of its $1.15 billion box office take was acquired domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. Asian markets played a pretty big role in pushing the movie over the billion-dollar mark, with $190 million coming in from China alone. This trend has been building for the last decade or so as China has emerged as a powerful force for movie audiences.
What this deal truly means is that the Russo Brothers are as forward thinking as businessmen as they are directors. This new deal could potentially make a lot of people a lot of money and represents the coming paradigm shift in movie making. None of that is to say it will kill Hollywood or the Hollywood system, but this is an opportunity that puts Joe and Anthony on the ground floor of an exciting new enterprise that represents the changing state of movie production.
Deals such as these will probably become more common in the next decade, though it’s hard to imagine a deal that’s as potentially game changing as this one. The Russo Brothers have repeatedly shown their ability to produce big budget movies without compromising character or story in addition to being the driving force behind a major, multi-movie project as they are with MCU. It’ll be interesting to see what develops from the partnership in a post-Infinity War world. We’ll keep you posted on any news that comes from the deal as it develops.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers 4 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.
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