Denmark’s Zentropa Entertainments is to enter the Chinese market and is currently working on its first Chinese-Danish production, which will shoot next year.
The company behind Lars von Trier’s movies as well as recent award-winners The Hunt and A Royal Affair is in negotiations with Chinese partners and expects to secure a long-term production agreement this autumn through new subsidiary Zentropa China.
Rikke Ennis, CEO of TrustNordisk - the joint international sales agency of Zentropa and Nordisk Film - will head Zentropa China.
Ennis recently returned from a visit to China with Nordisk Film chief Allan Mathson Hansen, where they met Chinese state film organisations and private producers.
“We want to work in China on local terms, not just present new Danish films which will hardly be released – only 34 foreign titles reach the Chinese cinemas annually. Our productions will be Chinese,” Ennis explained.
“Neither do we intend to compete on budgets. Last year’s most popular film in China, Lost in Thailand, was produced for a mere $4.8m and has become the the best-grossing local release ever, taking $202m.”
In Beijing, Ennis pitched the idea for a romantic comedy she had conceived – “a young Chinese girl, a real Ugly Betty, gets a scholarship and goes to Odense in Denmark to write her thesis about Hans Christian Andersen’s adventures. She dives into the world of magic and comes up a new human being, self-confident, ready to return to China and conquer the world – and love.”
Ennis added: “The Chinese have an extensive knowledge of Andersen.”
She will soon sign a Danish and Chinese scriptwriter for the as-yet-untitled romantic comedy, particularly designed for Chinese audiences.
Meanwhile, the management group of Zentropa China, which also includes TrustNordisk head of new business Sophie Frandsen and TrustNordisk head of legal affairs Sara Shafika Otten, are preparing the next step into the market.
China is set to become number one market for cinema within the next 10 years.