China’s largest online search engine, Baidu Inc., now has big plans to enter the film industry.
Baidu’s new business venture, Aquamen Entertainment, will be based in Los Angeles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chinese producer Gary Zhang and South Korean filmmaker Jeongjung Kim will oversee the venture. Their first project will be a $40 million animated feature film called Kong. Adapted from the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the film will also incorporate Hollywood sci-fi tropes. It is likely to have a Hollywood director, but will be developed collaboratively with an animation studio in South Korea.
According to China Daily, Baidu’s “adequate supply of capital” makes it a strong contender in the film industry, which carries a high risk for investment returns. The corporation’s financial reports say that it made $8.89 billion in total revenues during the third quarter of 2013, up 42.3 percent year-on-year.
“As an Internet search engine giant, Baidu has good resources and platforms to promote its productions as well as marketing campaigns,” Huang Qunfei, general manager of Beijing New Film Association Co Ltd., told China Daily.
Although this is Baidu’s first foray into the moviemaking business, the search engine has undertaken other such business ventures before. Last May, Baidu purchased iQiyi, a popular online video website previously owned by PPStream Inc., for $370 million to compete with China’s top online provider of video services.
According to Shao Gang, deputy director of consulting for the culture and entertainment industry at Beijing’s Horizon Research Consultancy Group, Baidu’s expansion into video production is to be expected, and reflects a need for online video providers, like iQiyi and its competitor, Youku Tudou Inc., to offer exclusive video content to their customers.
“It’s the right time for companies to consider investing in the content production sector while the big picture of the domestic online video broadcasting channels has almost been set, making it more difficult to exploit profit in the industry,” Shao said.
Analysts say that Aquamen Entertainment will also be a boon to China’s animated film industry, which has “lagged behind its Hollywood counterparts” for a while but is now showing signs of development. Five Chinese animated productions made last year’s top 10 list.
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