Baidu's Robin Li Ventures In Movie Production With Aquamen Entertainment, Which Will Release 'Kong' 3D Movie

on February 12 2014 3:44 PM
Robin Li
Robin Li Reuters

Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU), China’s web services giant, wants a piece of the rapidly growing China-oriented film production sector, with its most recent venture, Aquamen Entertainment. 

The new movie production venture run by the Internet mogul Robin Li, who also happens to be China’s richest man, Korean filmmaker Jeongjung Kim, and Chinese producer Gary Zhang, will be based in Los Angeles, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The first project for the Aquamen team will be an ambitious one, too. The production house announced its first project will be the 3D CGI-heavy Kong, which is a sci-fi adaptation of a famous Chinese character, the Monkey King, and will apparently be one of Asia’s largest animated projects ever pursued. Based on the novel Journey to the West, the modern version of the story will include huge Hollywood blockbuster elements like aliens and robots and $40 million Hollywood-size budget to match.

The movie was reportedly specifically chosen in hopes of breathing new life into China’s animation sector. While American animation films, like the most recent box office hit Frozen from The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), and Pixar’s second installment of Despicable Me, are a hit in China, attempts by local animators have floundered. As China’s technical capabilities begin to catch up, the potential for huge box office success for Chinese-produced animation pictures is growing.

In addition, as other Western production houses struggle to break into the China market with their films, the advantage of a China-backed project has its clear benefits. Though some other Hollywood blockbusters go the extra mile to make Chinese audiences feel included, Kong will inherently have the Chinese moviegoer in mind.  Many details about the movie are still unclear, but the Aquamen team plans on announcing the film’s director at the Cannes Film Festival next May.  

The newest project marks the first foray by Baidu’s founder and CEO into the movie production business, which seems to be the latest trendy money-making investment for China’s wealthiest moguls. “It’s a natural move for Baidu to enter the movie production area at this moment,” Shao Gang, the deputy director of consulting for the culture and entertainment industry at Horizon Research Consultancy Group, said in the China Daily. “It’s the right time for companies to consider investing in the content production sector… The need for providing exclusive video content has become more and more urgent among the online video providers.”

Baidu has grown to include several other video content ventures, including the company’s acquisition of popular online video site iQiyi and PPStream Inc’s online video business for $370 million. PPS now operates under the umbrella brand iQiyi. 

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