by Laurie Burkitt @ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Will better visual effects in Chinese films help them reach global audiences? China Media Capital hopes so.
The Chinese investment fund is filling its entertainment war chest with Chinese company Base FX, which contributed many visual effects to the new “Star Wars” film. China Media Capital said in a statement Thursday it is investing in Base FX, the visual effects company that made the animated monsters in China’s blockbuster film “Monster Hunt” as well as, it says, contributing some 400 shots to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
As part of the deal, the two companies are also launching a production company, called Base Media, to make big-budget films packed full of digital imagery and 3D characters, for China and international markets, CMC said in the statement.
CMC, founded by Chinese media tycoon Li Ruigang, is a growing force in Chinese entertainment. In September it struck a deal with Time Warner Inc.TWX +2.71% to make Chinese-language films in China. In 2012, it teamed up with DreamWorks DWA -6.79% Animation SKG Inc.and formed the Shanghai-based joint venture Oriental Dreamworks, which is producing the forthcoming animated film “Kung Fu Panda 3.”
China’s homegrown film companies are looking for ways to create big box-office hits that can grab Chinese audiences—who flock to films with realistic imaginary characters or extinct dinosaurs such as the ones seen in “Jurassic World”—and global ones. Some of the highest-grossing films in China, such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” were driven by digitally-generated characters and images.
Many local filmmakers have been turning to South Korean visual effects firms for help. But China has long hoped to build its own globally-competitive animators and effects giants. A Beijing-based animation startup attempted to whet the world’s appetite for Chinese animation several years ago with “Tofu Boy.”
Beijing-based Base FX opened shop in 2006 and worked on such films as “Pacific Rim” and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”
Base Media’s new projects include a slate of films with subjects ranging from fantasy to natural disaster, the statement said. Some will use virtual-reality technology and others will aim to breathe new life into China’s historical characters, the statement said.