China’s Leading Movie Production Companies


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by Robert Cain for China Film Biz

July 29, 2012

With their import quotas, foreign film blackouts, and other methods of market management, SARFT and the PRC government have made it abundantly clear that protection of local films and producers is a major Chinese policy goal.

Since Chinese protectionism is unlikely to go away, U.S. and other foreign producers who seek to participate in China’s booming film business will need to start engaging more with local Chinese companies.

There are several thousand licensed production companies in China (more than 1,500 in Beijing alone), so outsiders need systematic ways to narrow their lists of potential collaborators down to manageable size. One such method is to measure companies by their respective market shares. That’s my purpose here.

I’ve listed below China’s top production companies by their market share during the first 7 months of 2012. In calculating market share I’ve attributed each Chinese language film to a single production company, even though in some cases there were as many as 15 production companies credited on a single film. In such cases I’ve attributed credit for the film only to the company that received the first position credit. Co-productions with foreign companies are attributed to the mainland Chinese partner.

ImageSource: Pacific Bridge Pictures research

Here’s more detail on the top five:

Ningxia Film Group

Ningxia Film Group is the official government owned production company of Ningxia Autonomous Region, a tiny northern Chinese province that borders Inner Mongolia. The company landed at the top of this list by virtue of a single film, Painted Skin: The Resurrection, the only film it has ever produced. Ningxia’s President, Hong Yangtao explained that he had only one chance at making a movie: “We shot this film to survive.” His strategy for producing and launching Painted Skin 2 has resulted in mainland China’s most successful film ever, so it’s very possible that Ningxia may avoid the fate of becoming a one-hit wonder.

China Film Group

With all of its financial strength, distribution clout, and government influence, it’s surprising that China Film Group’s production division has managed only a 3 percent share of its home market this year, far less than any one of the Hollywood studios have captured in China. The Beijing-based company is a government-owned behemoth that is far more influential in the distribution sphere, where it has played a role in releasing 19 of the top 20 grossing films of 2012. Under its Chairman Han Sanping, CFG is preparing for an upcoming IPO.

Huayi Brothers

China’s most powerful independent (i.e., non state-owned) entertainment conglomerate, Beijing-based Huayi Brothers is a diversified company engaged in film and TV production, distribution, theatrical exhibition, and talent management. Huayi Brothers trades on the Shenzhen stock exchange at a market capitalization of US $1.5 billion. The company’s Wang Brothers are skilled at attracting top directors, and they consistently rank among China’s market share leaders. If any Chinese company can challenge Hollywood’s studios for market dominance in China, Huayi Brothers is certainly a top contender.

Bona Film Group

Like Huayi Brothers, Beijing based Bona Film Group is also an independent, publicly traded company engaged in both production and distribution of films. Trading on the US NASDAQ exchange, Bona’s current market capitalization is US $345 million. Under President Yu Dong the company has been a reliable supplier of blockbuster hits in recent years, and usually captures at least a 10 percent share of the domestic market. Bona is one of the more internationally-oriented Chinese companies, with interests in Hong Kong and the United States, and is now 20 percent owned by News Corp. Look to Bona to be one of the next producers of a crossover hit that breaks out internationally.

Enlight Media

Under CEO Wang Changtian, Enlight Media rarely mis-fires in its production and distribution of feature films.  Squarely focused on the action and romance genres, Enlight usually places several films in China’s top 20 grossers, and currently has in release the country’s fourth highest-grossing Chinese language film, The Four. Enlight is also a major player in China’s TV series production and distribution businesses. Under the leadership of its CEO Wang Changtian, the publicly traded, Beijing-based company has achieved a market capitalization of nearly US $1 billion.

Companies that didn’t make the top 15 ranking above but that are worthy of mention include Shanghai Toonmax, Stellar Pictures, Xiaoxiang Film Group, Henan Film Studios, DMG Entertainment, and Dadi Films.

Too many production companies are competing in China for scarce resources—and for even scarcer quality scripts. If the PRC’s film regulators are serious about making their domestic industry more competitive, they should focus less on protectionist measures and more on encouraging consolidation and cooperation among the industry’s disparate players.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.

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Dreamworks Animation Keeps ‘Panda-ring’ to China; President-Apparent Xi Jinping in an Animated Mood


By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

February 17, 2012 from Beijing, China I’m happy to be reporting today from Beijing, where I’ve just finished a second day of investor meetings on my 10-day, multi-city China trip. Things are going quite well; the level of interest among investors wishing to fund films made outside of China is higher than I’ve ever experienced. With a little luck I’ll be making an announcement regarding my company, Pacific Bridge Pictures, in the coming weeks.

Of course, any announcement I might make would pale in comparison to the one apparently being engineered by Dreamworks Animation (DWA) CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Although it hasn’t happened yet, it’s been widely reported that Katzenberg has arranged to have China’s President-apparent Xi Jinping announce today the formation of a new three-way, Chinese government-backed, $2 billion joint-venture between DWA, Shanghai Media Group, and China Media Capital.

According to reports in the Chinese press, under the terms of the joint venture the three companies will construct a studio facility in Shanghai with the intent of developing and producing film, television and live stage productions aimed at the booming Chinese media market.

None of the partners has deigned to comment or confirm the reports, but we’ll presumably know today whether there is truth to the story.

Assuming it is true, I’m giving Jeffrey Katzenberg a virtual kowtow of admiration and respect for his exemplary showmanship. Enlisting China’s President-to-be as his emissary is a brilliant political and public relations coup, and a win-win both for him and for Xi. As he prepares to assume the mantle of leadership in the People’s Republic, Xi gets to demonstrate China’s largesse (and importance) to the U.S. by showering a major Hollywood company with a $2 billion ‘gift,’ while deflecting attention from China’s extremely one-sided behavior with respect to entertainment trade. For Katzenberg, Xi’s endorsement would cement his standing in China’s animation business, and also send an important signal to Hollywood that he sees China as his most important territory after North America.

Although they have been quieter until now than DWA, Hollywood’s other major animation companies should not by any means be counted out. It hasn’t escaped the attention of Universal’s Illumination or Disney’s Pixar that China’s family animation market tripled in size in 2011 versus the prior year.

With heavy government support and a voracious market for animated films and TV programs and related merchandise, China will likely become the world’s biggest territory for these companies–even bigger than the US–in less than a decade. Although fewer than a quarter of animated feature films released in China are made by U.S. companies, these films dominate the market with a nearly 75 percent share of the box office.

China has a lot of catching up to do before its animation production companies can compete in terms of storytelling, technical quality, and global commercial viability.  Because U.S. expertise is highly prized in China, America’s major animation companies can anticipate that their futures there will be very bright indeed.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at rob@pacificbridgepics.com and at www.pacificbridgepics.com.