Coverage: Alibaba strikes movie deal with Spielberg
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has struck a deal with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners to produce, finance and distribute movies, further expanding the online retailer’s business.
Alyssa Abkowitz and Erich Schwartzel of The Wall Street Journal had the news:
Amblin and the e-commerce company’s movie business, Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd., said their alliance will help Mr. Spielberg’s company distribute its movies in China, while Alibaba, in turn, will rely on Amblin to become a bigger part of Hollywood’s production and distribution scene.
Alibaba Pictures will take a minority equity stake in Amblin and gain a seat on its board. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms of the deal.
To celebrate the alliance, Mr. Ma and Mr. Spielberg held a conversation on a hotel-ballroom stage in Beijing on Sunday, during which they said the two companies will promote values shared by both the East and the West.
“We can do co-productions between our company and your company, and we can bring more of China to America, and more of America to China,” Mr. Spielberg said.
Abid Rahman of The Hollywood Reporter examined Amblin’s future releases:
Jeff Small, president and co-CEO of Amblin, also was in Beijing for the signing ceremony. Small confirmed the Alibaba deal was the Amblin’s first alliance in China and that both companies had been speaking for several months.
Alibaba Pictures president Zhang Wei said that the partnership will begin with the marketing and distribution of the Spielberg-directed The BFG, which is set for release Friday in China.
The fledgling Chinese film studio already has invested in several high-profile Hollywood projects including Star Trek Beyond, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and most recently Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Amblin’s upcoming slate of films includes comedy A Dog’s Purpose, to be released Jan. 27, and sci-fi adventure film Ready Player One, based on the best-selling book by Ernest Cline and directed by Spielberg. The pic, starring Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Tye Sheridan, is slated to hit theaters March 30, 2018.
Nancy Tartaglione of Deadline notes that Alibaba has invested in prior movie operations:
Amblin Partners was officially born in December last year as a film, television and digital content creation company. The partners at the time had culled together over $300M with the bulk coming from Participant. Spielberg is also personally invested. Financial details of the Alibaba arrangement were not disclosed.
The Spielberg-led company develops and produces films using the Amblin, DreamWorks and Participant labels. It has a deal at Universal which handles marketing and distribution under a multi-year pact, beginning with this weekend’s The Girl On The Train.
Alibaba Pictures made its first investment in a global tentpole with Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation last year and has since increased its involvement with Hollywood. Its other international investments include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, Star Trek Beyond, and Korean pic REAL. During its China run, Rogue Nation became the highest-grossing 2D Hollywood film ever. TMNT2 and Star Trek Beyond more recently enjoyed successful Middle Kingdom runs, albeit at a time when box office has hit a lull in the world’s second biggest market.
Alibaba is also partnered with Skydance Media to finance and produce the WWII-themed Flying Tigers which Randall Wallace is scripting.