I met for lunch the other day with Dan Mintz, the chief executive of DMG, a Beijing-based advertising company which is now branching into film production.
Last year, DMG invested in the patriotic Founding of the Republic (a good way to kick off your career in Chinese cinema if you want to please the authorities), and this year they have a hit on their hands with the Chinese romantic comedy Du Lala.
Mintz was a director of photography in Hollywood before coming to China in the early 1990s, so in a sense getting into film is a return to what he knows. His timing seems spot-on. The Chinese box office could hit 10 billion yuan ($1.47 billion) this year, up 61%. China was the world’s biggest market for the disaster film 2012 and the second biggest worldwide market for Transformers 2.
Because of the current system, under which the 20 foreign films that win distribution rights in China each year only win 13pc of their gross for their studios, Hollywood has not taken much of an interest in China. Indeed, the big studios have worried that if they release their movies in China too promptly, they will just get pirated.
Now though people’s ears are beginning to prick up, especially at the news that the number of cinemas is likely to increase from 5,000 to 35,000 in the next five years.
DMG’s latest project is a remake of the Mel Gibson movie, What Women Want, starring Andy Lau. Paramount, the owners of the film, approached Mintz to see if it could make some money off the franchise – slowing DVD sales means the film is of little value to the studio otherwise.
It’s an interesting idea, and there are plenty of other Hollywood movies that could cross over into a Chinese production. I’m looking forward to seeing who comes next.