Video-on-demand or movie streaming websites have become an emerging channel for film financing in China as several Chinese video websites revealed new investments on film production at a seminar today at Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), including LeTV Entertainment, Sohu.com, and Voole.com.
LeTV Entertainment, a film production wing of LeTV.com, announced to fully finance the company’s third film project, an untitled suspense thriller by Sheng Zhimin (Bliss). The story will about a serial killer who kills based on references from the horoscope. Zhuo Shunguo, CEO of LeTV Entertainment, confirmed that the project has applied for a shooting permit at China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). LeTV’s previous investment project Welcome to Shama Town, a Western-styled action comedy starring Sun Honglei and Taiwanese actress Lin Chih-ling and directed by Li Weiran is now planned for a large-scale summer release. LeTV Entertainment’s first film investment is Hong Kong director Jeff Lau’s sci-fi drama Kung Fu Cyborg.
Sohu.com, one of China’s largest portal sites, last year established Sohu Entertainment on film investment, announced the company’s second film investment — Zhang Yang’s (Shower, Getting Home) Driverless, a three-segmented story about three entangled love stories. Sohu co-finances the film with Beijing-based studio Stellar Megamedia International. Starring Liu Ye (Dark Matters), Gao Yuanyuan (City of Life and Death) and Ruby Lin, the film is scheduled to be released on July 2. “The main reason for us to invest on films is to learn about the operation of the film business and also to fulfill the demand of content for our video-sharing site,” said Yu Tao, Chief Editor of Sohu’s video-sharing site Sohu Video. Sohu in 2009 invested in $6m drama Gasp, starring John Savage and Chinese star Ge You.
At a seminar on digital distribution, executives of China’s video-sharing sites said online distribution of films has largely replaced the role of DVD distribution in China, because there is almost no legitimate DVD business in the country. These digital sites are now eagerly seeking content either through buying titles or direct film investment. “We need to co-develop content with film companies so that we can make sure we have the suitable content on our website,” said Wilson Yao, President of video site Joy.cn. “Besides, by owning content we have control to shorten the release window for these films,” he added.
Earlier this year, another video-sharing site Voole.com appointed Hong Kong producer Daniel Yu as Senior VP on film development and production. The company invested in Wu Ershan’s kung fu comedy The Legend of Kitchen Knife, which is currently in post-production.