Hollywood film giant links with China distributor

Relativity Media, the production company behind "The Social Network", has teamed up with two Chinese firms in a $100 million deal that gives it access to China's rapidly expanding film market.

Relativity will co-produce and distribute "cross cultural" films and television programmes with China's Huaxia Film Distribution and SkyLand Film-Television Culture Development, the companies said in a statement.

Huaxia is China's second-largest distributor, while SkyLand recently made the English-language film "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Chinese American Wayne Wang, produced by Wendi Murdoch and starring Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.

The three-way cooperation, announced Sunday in Beijing by Relativity chief executive Ryan Kavanaugh and Huaxia executive chairman Gu Guoqing, comes as China puts up seven new cinema screens a day and sells more tickets than ever.

China is the world's fastest-growing film market, with 2010 movie box office takings up 64 percent to hit $1.5 billion, according to official figures.

The new joint venture will distribute Relativity titles such as the mythological action film "Immortals" and an untitled Snow White film starring Julia Roberts under the SkyLand banner.

Two-year-old SkyLand is backed by Chinese private equity firm SAIF Partners and the China arm of Boston-based media fund IDG.

Kavanaugh said Relativity would work with SAIF and IDG to develop, produce, distribute and acquire Chinese television shows and films made for China that might also have worldwide appeal.

"It is unquestionable that China and the United States must work closely together to build an entertainment business for the future, which strives to make and release global product appealing to worldwide audiences," he said.

Huaxia's Gu said the partnership would also "open the channels for Chinese movies to air globally and offer international audiences a better understanding of Chinese culture".

China's one-party government has encouraged the heavily-regulated film industry to use the medium to promote a positive image of China around the world.

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