As Hollywood increasingly looks to China, greasing the local wheels becomes a priority.
Hollywood’s obsession with China is creating a new class of executive: Asia ambassador. Sources say Fox International Productions has hired Michael Andreen, a Disney veteran who has spent much of the past year in China working to foster U.S.-Chinese co-productions, to serve as senior vp production under FIP head Sanford Panitch.
Although based in Los Angeles, Andreen’s experience in China will make him especially valuable. His appointment comes as all of the major studios now have offices in Beijing with a mandate to make inroads in film, home entertainment, TV, digital and theme parks. (Universal, the last holdout, has lured Jo Yan from Disney to run its new Beijing operation.) And on July 28, Disney named studio veteran Paul Candland to the newly created post of president of Disney’s entire Asia operation, overseeing China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.
“Everybody is in the same place. China is simply too big to avoid,” says Panitch. On the U.S. studio lots, the thinking is that Andreen and his counterparts are invaluable in understanding the quirks of the China market, where the government controls distribution and marketing as well as the flow of money into film production.
The job of a China ambassador is to work with Chinese officials and financiers and essentially grease the wheels on behalf of the studio. Andreen’s focus will be co-productions, like FIP’s Chinese-language remake of the 2009 Fox comedy Bride Wars, which is shooting in China. U.S. studios in particular want a piece of the local film business, considering Chinese titles now make up half of the country’s box-office gross (or $1.8 billion in 2013). For instance, Panitch’s division co-produced Hot Summer Days, a Chinese film that grossed $20 million in China in 2010.
Source: Pamela McClintock@THR