'Ranger's Apprentice' film, now brought to you by China


Shanghai (AFP)

A former Disney executive's new film company that plans to bring the "Ranger's Apprentice" young adult fantasy novels to the big screen has secured financing from China reportedly worth $500 million.

Film Carnival, based in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, said it will provide funding to Dick Cook Studios in a statement on its website.

It gave no value for the deal, but industry publication Variety put it at $500 million.

Dick Cook was replaced as chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 2009 after decades with the company.

Dick Cook Studios' first project will be a film based on "Ranger's Apprentice", an international bestselling series of 12 books by Australian author John Flanagan, which begins with a story of a teenager serving the shadowy Ranger warriors.

Chinese companies are ramping up investment in the foreign entertainment industry, as the country seeks to boost its "soft power".

And foreign studios are keen to expand into China's fast-growing cinema market, now the second-largest in the world.

The US side will handle development, production, worldwide distribution and marketing, as well as help Film Carnival to produce its own movies in China, Variety reported.

Carnival said the cooperation will help "promote Chinese culture", according to the statement, posted on Monday.

The deal followed last week's China-US Motion Picture Summit, which was co-sponsored by Dick Cook Studios.

In January, Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group signed a $3.5 billion deal to buy Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment, said to be China's biggest-ever cultural takeover.

In February, Beijing-based Perfect World Pictures said it will offer $250 million in financing to US studio Universal Pictures.

But such deals have sometimes floundered, and have raised questions over how much say Chinese companies will have in determining content, as they seek to balance strict censorship at home while appealing to global audiences.

China's authorities delete content from films that they deem politically sensitive or pornographic.