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September 30, 2014

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China Film takes first stake in Hollywood movies

HONG KONG — China's state-owned film distributor is making its first investment in Hollywood movies by taking a stake in two Legendary Entertainment productions.

China Film Co. will make an "eight-figure equity investment" in two upcoming films, "Seventh Son" and "Warcraft," the Chinese unit of Legendary Entertainment said Tuesday.

The exact amount of the U.S. dollar investment was not specified.

"Seventh Son" is a fantasy adventure starring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore that's scheduled for release on Feb. 6, 2015. "Warcraft," based on a popular video game series, is slated for release March 11, 2016.

If approved for release in China, China Film would distribute the movies under current rules and regulations for foreign films, which are limited to just 34 a year. The deal calls for China Film to be credited on the movies.

China Film, which is planning to go public, owns stakes in movie theater chains that make up half of the country's box office receipts. Its parent, China Film Group, is the gatekeeper for foreign studios because it controls film imports and co-productions.

The projects are the first since Legendary and China Film teamed up about a year ago to produce global blockbusters. It's one of a number of recent tie-ups between companies in the world's two biggest movies markets.

As box-office revenue growth flattens out at home, Hollywood studies are keen to move into China, now the world's second biggest movie market with $3.6 billion in ticket sales last year. China's leaders hope that entertainment companies can benefit from the joint ventures by acquiring know-how to develop their own cultural industries in order to expand influence abroad.

Legendary Entertainment's films include "The Dark Knight" and "Hangover" trilogies and last year's sci-fi action adventure "Pacific Rim."

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