Tencent Holdings plans to continue its bold push into the international film business.
Tencent Pictures, the Chinese internet giant's upstart filmmaking unit, has set aside more than 1 billion yuan, or over $150 million, to finance Hollywood and Chinese film projects in 2017, an unnamed source at the company told Bloomberg News on Wednesday.
Tencent also already has spent approximately $150 million on film financing in 2016, the source added.
The company was a co-financier of Legendary Entertainment's Chinese box-office hit Warcraft (which grossed $220.8 million in the country) and the upcoming Kong: Skull Island. In September, Tencent Pictures announced an ambitious 21-film slate spanning projects of various genres, including Tibet Code, a film adaptation of hit Chinese fantasy book series, and a 3D animation based on Tuzki, the popular rabbit emoticon used on WeChat, China's most popular messaging service (owned and operated by the Tencent parent company).
A Tencent representative declined to comment on the company's financing plans.
An online gaming platform that had become China's leading internet portal, social media site and instant messaging service before expanding into online publishing, TV and film production, Tencent passed Alibaba Group in September to become the most valuable tech firm in Asia, with a market capitalization of $250 billion. The company has been on an overseas investment spree throughout the year.
In June, Tencent bought Finnish hit game maker Supercell, the company behind Clash of Clans, for $8.6 billion. It later took equity stakes in STX Entertainment (Bad Moms) and Stuart Ford's foreign sales and finance outfit IM Global (Hacksaw Ridge) before partnering with sports and entertainment powerhouse WME-IMG to set up a joint venture in China.
Tencent Pictures also is exploring a collaborative pact with The Dark Knight producer David S. Goyer.
Tencent is engaged in an arms race with fellow Chinese corporate giants Alibaba, Dalian Wanda Group and Baidu Inc. to secure a share of the expanding Chinese box office, which is expected to top North America as the world's largest movie market sometime in 2018.
The Chinese giants see partnerships with experienced Hollywood players as crucial to their domestic and overseas success. Alibaba Pictures Group bought a stake in Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners last month after taking stakes in several Paramount Pictures titles, including Star Trek Beyond.
And Wanda's chairman Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, told The Hollywood Reporter in October that he plans to invest billions into movies made by all six of the Hollywood studios.