Paramount Pictures secures financing from Chinese investors for film slate

Ryan FaughnderContact Reporter

Paramount Pictures, the Viacom Corp.-owned studio that has struggled at the box office for several years, is getting a financial boost from two Chinese media companies.

Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media have agreed to co-finance the studio’s slate of films over the next three years, the companies said in a statement Thursday. Financial terms were not disclosed but the partnership will be worth as much as $1 billion in financing to the studio, according to a person briefed on the pact.

In addition, Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media will open and jointly maintain an office on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles starting later this year.

The deal marks the latest move by Chinese companies to invest in Hollywood and comes nearly three months after Viacom’s board rejected a plan to sell a 49% stake in Paramount Pictures to China’s Dalian Wanda Group. Wanda subsequently signed a deal to invest an undisclosed amount in Sony Pictures movies. Wanda has also acquired Dick Clark Productions, Legendary Pictures and the AMC theater chain.

Other Chinese companies have been maneuvering to get a foothold in Hollywood.

Alibaba Pictures, the entertainment arm of Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant, recently announced a deal to co-produce and co-finance movies with Steven Spielberg’s entertainment company, Amblin Partners. Chinese technology giant Tencent and Hong Kong-based telecommunications firm PCCW last year agreed to invest in Burbank upstart studio STX Entertainment.

China’s Hollywood ambitions have raised red flags in Washington. Last year, 16 members of Congress signed a letter calling for increased scrutiny over China’s involvement in American films, citing “growing concerns” over Chinese efforts to exert “propaganda controls on American media.”

China’s domestic films are strictly censored, and top Chinese officials have expressed goals of promoting a positive image of China abroad.

Under a long-term strategic agreement, Paramount, Huahua and Shanghai Film Group said they would actively seek opportunities for co-productions, which exempt studios from China’s strict quota that limits the number of foreign movies allowed into the country. The two companies have previously invested in Paramount movies, including “xXx: Return of Xander Cage.”

“Shanghai Film Group’s long and successful history as a prolific studio, coupled with Huahua’s strong track record in the Chinese market and its growing reach globally, make this a natural and powerful move for Paramount,” Paramount Pictures Chief Executive Brad Grey said in a statement.



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