Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment on Thursday announced a major strategic marketing and co-financing alliance.
The agreement is expected to include many of Sony Pictures' upcoming high-profile releases in China, such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is set to open in U.S. theaters July 7.
Wanda, the largest theater owner in China, will use its vast footprint to help promote Sony's movies in the country, which has fast become the world's second-largest box office.
Wanda also may take minority equity stakes in the Sony titles on a case by case basis, if both parties approve, according to a person familiar with the agreement. Although details of the financing component were not disclosed, Wanda described the arrangement as not limited to a specific number of titles, adding in a statement: "It's the first time for a Chinese company to reach an open-ended investment partnership with a major Hollywood studio, creating a new model for the global film industry."
"The Chinese market for Hollywood films continues to boom, and this alliance gives a huge boost to our ability to connect directly with its audiences," said Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group. "Wanda is a dynamic entertainment player led by the visionary chairman Wang Jianlin; we are honored to be in business with them."
A local marketing partner has proven to be helpful to Hollywood in China, where regulators limit foreign film imports to just 34 titles per year. All non-Chinese movies also are required to be distributed by one of two state-backed companies - with release dates approved by regulators just weeks in advance - which considerably hampers the U.S. studios' usual marketing prowess in the region.
Wanda previously partnered with Paramount on the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows in China.
"As the global film industry continues to explode, Wanda values strategic alliances with content companies to foster international collaboration," said Jack Gao, senior vp and CEO of international investments and operations, Wanda Cultural Industry Group. "This deal furthers our worldwide entertainment strategy as we look forward to positive returns and establishing closer relationships with leading media companies."