China’s Recon Group plans to buy a majority stake in genre-producer Millennium Films for $100 million.
This deal marks China’s latest entry into Hollywood after stalled efforts by Dalian Wanda’s buyout of Dick Clark Productions.
Wanda’s 002739 55.70 +0.14 0.25% mounting debt issues relating to its property empire, and massive losses by Wanda Cinema in 2016 is burning through cash.
As widely reported Wanda Group has been on a global entertainment shopping spree. They own outright, AMC Theaters, Legendary Entertainment, Odeon and UCI Cinemas, and Nordic Cinema Group.
Conversely, Wanda’s Western counterparts are forbidden from owning any media assets in China.
This disparity is leading to greater political pressure in the U.S. and Europe against China’s one-way investment advantage.
Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films was founded in 1996 with Trevor Short, as a way to distribute action films internationally. Most of their catalog in the early days consisted of direct-to-video content that was hugely popular in Europe and Russia.
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Millennium has over 250 titles in its film library. The company focuses on producing and financing six films a year in the $20 million to $80 million range.
In 2013, when the company hired Bill Lee, it appeared the Millennium would widen its library to compete with Lionsgate and the studios’ independent labels.
However, after Bill Lee stepped down in January, its apparent Millennium will forge ahead with Jason Statham-type films, which are crowd-pleasers in many foreign markets.
Money in the Bank
The deal announcement is no guarantee that it will close, as seen recently with Xinke Metal’s proposed acquisition of Voltage Pictures for $350 million. The murky details surrounding this failed buyout is now a matter of litigation.
There is no deal until the final contracts are signed, and the money is in the bank.