U.K.'s Pinewood Shepperton, China's Seven Stars Ink Joint Venture Deal

George Szalai
Cannes: Seven Stars Media Chairman & CEO Bruno Wu on Changes Needed in Chinese Film (Q&A)

U.K. studio facilities operator Pinewood Shepperton and Chinese media group Seven Stars Media Ltd. on Wednesday unveiled a joint venture that will look to take advantage of opportunities in the fast-growing Chinese market.

The venture, dubbed "Song Lin," will assess "a number of business proposals in the growing entertainment market in China," the partners said.

While financial details weren't disclosed, Pinewood, known as the British home of the James Bond franchise, said it would provide its expertise under the arrangement and make a "limited" capital investment.

The venture comes amid a slew of recent collaborations between Hollywood studios and Chinese partners as foreign entertainment companies look to break into China. (We'll add examples later)

The deal also is latest proof of Chinese companies' hopes to become bigger players in the global film business.

Seven Stars focuses on content creation and distribution, media services and events. Last April, it announced plans to build Chinawood, a sprawling film hub near the city of Tianjin that was to cost $1.27 billion. Its Seven Stars Movies arm has also invested in Low Life, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner, and Nicole Kidman's Grace Kelly biopic Grace of Monaco.

Pinewood, which is also about to open a joint venture production facility in Malaysia, says it is the largest provider of film and TV studio space in Europe. Its recent productions have included Skyfall, Maleficent and Les Miserables.

Under the venture agreement, Pinewood and Seven Stars are looking to develop and provide co-production opportunities for film and TV producers, financing and related services for Chinese productions, "a series of film-themed entertainment venues in Shanghai and regionally," film-themed projects in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan, as well as film and TV diploma courses to be delivered by U.K. educational institutions.

"The Chinese market for content is the fastest growing in the world, and taking Pinewood’s experience and skills to that market in partnership with such an established and successful local partner is a truly exciting prospect," said Pinewood CEO Ivan Dunleavy. "The partnership with Seven Stars, under [chairman and CEO] Bruno Wu’s direction, represents a strategic step forward for Pinewood's international development. If successful, the joint venture could provide significant opportunities for U.K. film and television producers."

"Together with Pinewood, we have identified a significant number of business opportunities for the short, medium and long term," said Wu. "The joint venture will aim to improve the standard of media production, create co-production opportunities for Chinese producers and export Chinese film and television content overseas. Our local knowledge and scale combined with Pinewood's unique operational skills and international reputation will enable our joint venture to participate in China's content explosion."

Wu is also known for shaking hands with the likes of Justin Lin, who will make films using the Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund, and Avi Arad, a partner on potential Chinese mythological superheroes projects, in December.

Said British Prime Minister David Cameron: "The creative industries are a rapidly growing area of China’s economy and will increasingly provide huge opportunities for U.K. companies competing in the global race. Pinewood is leading the way, taking advantage of China’s thriving entertainment and media sector and building on Britain and China’s growing trade relationship."