By Chris Peters and Kanika Sikka
(Reuters) - Walt Disney Studios has signed an agreement with Shanghai Media Group Pictures to develop Disney-branded movies, the latest move by a U.S. studio to grow its presence in China's entertainment business.
U.S.-based writers will team up with local writers and filmmakers to develop stories and scripts that incorporate Chinese themes in Disney movies, the studio said in a statement. (http://link.reuters.com/mur47v)
The studio said the multi-year partnership with Shanghai Media will expand training opportunities between Chinese and American writers and filmmakers.
Tony To, the studio's executive vice president of production, will oversee the co-development program, which could allow for easier releases of English-language films in China.
A 37-member Film Censorship Committee vets every movie in China for nudity, violence and politically sensitive scenes. Western films in addition must meet the committee's "amendment opinions" to be one of the 34 Hollywood films permitted in China each year.
Last year, Disney's superhero film "Iron Man 3" debuted in China and included a top Chinese actress and footage shot in China, additions that helped the film ease past strict censors and often confusing rules for Western films.
In February, the official Xinhua news agency reported that China will maintain its quota for imported Hollywood movies this year, rejecting reports it had planned to increase access for U.S. films to the world's second-largest cinema market.
Production companies like Viacom Inc's Paramount Picture and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc have hired Chinese actors and set up co-productions with Chinese firms.
China's entertainment and media market is estimated to grow to $148 billion by 2015 from around $120 billion in 2013, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' outlook for the global entertainment and media business 2011-2015.
In 2012, Disney was named founding partner of a National Chinese Animation Creative Research and Development Project - an initiative to advance China's animation industry and train local talent and promote the development of Chinese content and franchises.
Walt Disney Co and BesTV New Media, the digital media unit of the Shanghai Media Group, formed a joint venture in China in December 2013, to provide entertainment using both companies' technical and marketing expertise.
(Editing by Matt Driskill)