James Cameron Sees China in 3-D

As China opens up its movie industry to more foreign films and increases the number of joint ventures with Hollywood, Oscar winning director James Cameron has said he will start a joint venture for 3-D film technology in China. From Reuters:

Oscar-winning director James Cameron said on Wednesday that he will open a joint venture in China to provide 3-D filming technology, the latest move by Hollywood to secure a foothold in the country’s booming movie industry.

CPG China Division, the new arm of Cameron Pace Group, will offer Chinese film makers three-dimensional camera technology but will not be involved immediately in producing films, Cameron told Reuters in an interview.

“We’re not going to tell Chinese film makers how to make movies. We are going to help them make a transition to 3D production technology as cost effectively as possible, and in a way that doesn’t inhibit creativity,” he said.

Three-dimensional films, which enhance depth perception by being shot from two perspectives, gained in popularity during the 2000s and achieved a breakthrough with Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar”, a movie about blue aliens which set a $2.8 billion box office global earnings record.

The Huffington Post reports that Cameron and Vince Pace will provide technology and production services together with their Chinese partners:

Cameron Pace Group’s announcement Wednesday comes as the fast growth of China’s film market is attracting Hollywood studios that are rushing to link up with local partners.

The venture with two Chinese partners will supply 3-D filming technology and production services, said Cameron and his business partner, Vince Pace. They said they are discussing possible collaboration with state broadcaster China Central Television on developing 3-D TV.

“This is an enormous untapped market that is right on the verge of the transition from 2-D to 3-D,” said Cameron in an interview. “This is the best place for us to create a kind of second home.”

The Chinese partners are Tianjin North Film Group, a state-owned film and television production company, and Tianjing Binhai Hi-Tech Development Group, which operates a technology park in Tianjin, a port city east of Beijing where the venture will be based.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, some details of the deal remain a mystery:

Financial and ownership details of the venture weren’t immediately clear. Cameron Pace provides 3D technologies and production services.

Citing the country’s official Xinhua News Agency, Bloomberg News said that the company struck the deal in the northern Chinese province of Tianjin.

Cameron also traveled to China in April to attend the Beijing International Film Festival where he told THR he was considering teaming with China for the Avatar sequels.

China’s film market is one of the biggest in the world, and Cameron said he would need to rely on this market for growth, The New York Times reports:

In the first quarter, Chinese ticket sales surpassed Japan’s for the first time, making China into Hollywood’s largest export box office market. In spite of the government’s limit on film imports — only 34 are allowed to share in the box office take each year — Hollywood had 8 of the top 10 places on the box office ranking list from January through June, led by Mr. Cameron’s “Titanic 3-D.”

In a testament to his popularity with Chinese moviegoers and the power of 3-D to draw consumers willing to pay a premium, the 3-D remake of the 1997 hit grossed 915 million renminbi, or $144 million, at the box office. That was $41 million more than the runner-up, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”

In the coming years, China’s movie ticket sales are projected to surpass U.S. ticket sales of nearly $11 billion in 2011, industry estimates show, and Mr. Cameron said he hoped to be a part of the growth of the Chinese market.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 3-D movies are becoming more popular in China:

The number of 3-D screens in China jumped to 5,400 last year from 82 in 2007, according to Beijing-based film market research firm EntGroup.

In China, the 3-D movie “Painted Skin: The Resurrection,” from Huayi Brothers MediaCorp. 300027.SZ -0.24% is on track to become the highest-grossing domestic film ever, with box-office revenue at 628 million yuan (US$98.7 million) and counting, according to data from EntGroup. Mr. Cameron’s 3-D rerelease of “Titanic” has brought in more than 934 million yuan in China this year.

In 2011, six of China’s top 10 grossing films were 3-D, according to EntGroup. China’s overall box-office revenue climbed 29% to 13.1 billion yuan ($2.08 billion) last year, according to official figures.

China has pushed to produce films that will help it soften its image overseas. The country’s local and central governments are throwing new weight at 3-D as they look for ways to build up domestic consumption and to pave the way for innovation, said Bai Qiang, the chief executive of Beijing-based technology and film production company 3D China Ltd., which isn’t affiliated with Mr. Cameron’s venture. “They ultimately want to see Chinese homes buying new television sets and high-definition cable boxes,” said Mr. Bai.State broadcaster China Central Television launched this year a 3-D station, but only an estimated 30,000 people receive it, said Mr. Bai, adding that few consumers are eager to buy it given that there are so few content options right now.

See also Hollywood Kowtows to China, via CDT.

August 9, 2012 8:50 AM
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