by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Cinedigm Corp, a leading Los Angeles-based entertainment company and distributor, in another strategic coup, announced that CMC Pictures would be joining their merry band of heavyweight licensing partners.
TWO BIG PLAYERS
CMC Pictures is a major distributor in China and their partnership will have Cinedigm releasing various CMC titles across all ancillary channels in North America, including digital, television and DVD/Blue-Ray.
"This is an important step for us," said Cinedigm Chairman and CEO, Chris McGurk in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Friday. "We value our Chinese partners and know we can help their products get the exposure they deserve in the West."
Cinedigm is a leading LA-based entertainment company and distributor that has gone through multiple incarnations since it was established in 2000 as a company focused on transforming movie theaters with 35mm-based legacy projection systems into networked digital entertainment centers.
CMC is the international sales and distribution arm of CMC Inc., a prominent venture capital company with 5 billion U.S. dollars under management, and a media and entertainment conglomerate that deals in film, TV, music, fashion & lifestyle, sports, gaming, live entertainment, theater, artist and sports agencies, cinemas, urban recreational complexes, and theme parks.
No stranger to Hollywood, CMC Inc has also signed a strategic partnership agreement with Time Warner and owns a stake in dominant talent agency business Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Imagine Entertainment in the United States, and Pearl Studios and Gravity Pictures in China.
Founded in 2016, CMC Pictures came out of the gate swinging and has racked up an enviable track-record distributing many of the most successful films in China recently including, Wolf Warrior 2 (850 million U.S. dollars), The Wandering Earth (650 million U.S. dollars), The Meg (530 million U.S. dollars), and Pegasus (255 million U.S. dollars).
Recently, in reference to CMC's relationship with Hollywood, Vice President of CMC Catherine Xujun Ying, said, "Our Chairman's vision was to embrace the world and work closely with Hollywood. And hopefully learn the trends and tricks of movie making."
Some of those trends and tricks will now be up to Cinedigm to share.
TO GET GLOBAL
"With us," says McGurk, "CMC's content will get global exposure and potentially theatrical releases in the U.S. market. One of our top priorities will be to figure out how to improve how Chinese content is received here," he added.
Part of that, he contends, will be ensuring that Chinese films have top quality stories that appeal to younger audiences, knowledgeable directors at the helm, feature actors that are known in West, have good quality subtitles or dubbing, and the right distribution partner.
"That's what we're here for," he chuckled.
McGurk took the reigns as Chairman and CEO in 2011 and orchestrated the company's evolution into a significant entertainment company and distributor, now boasting 50,000 titles and distribution relationships with leading retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, and online giants, iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon.
The company has grown through a rapid series of strategic acquisitions and alliances and in 2012, it launched its theatrical releasing division that specializes in Oscar-winning documentaries and star-driven indies.
It launched its own OTT Docurama channel, partnered with Wizard World to launch the fan-focused digital steaming CONtv, and with the Dove Foundation to launch the Dove Channel for faith-based and kids programming.
Those successes inspired Cinedigm to pivot forcefully into the digital streaming business, using their prodigious content library and high-profile content-licensing partnerships to stock their larder.
This latest deal with CMC is part of a bigger plan to launch their new streaming service, Bambu, that will bring Chinese-language content to the West.
To augment their Chinese content war-chest, Cinedigm previously inked deals with some of the best media partnerships in the business with: Shanghai Media Group, one of China's largest media, cultural, and production companies with over 10 billion U.S. dollars in assets; Youku, a subsidiary of online giant Alibaba, one of China's leading online video hosting services with 800 million daily views; CCTV, China's leading state-owned TV broadcaster.
The initial focus for Bambu will be on content that does well in both the Chinese and U.S. markets, kids programing, music, cooking and lifestyle shows, variety and reality programming.
"Young American audiences are thought leaders. They think things like KPOP, Drama Fever or Chinese Rap are cool because they felt they discovered them," McGurk explained.
"So ironically, one of the best things going for Chinese content is that it's not watched here yet. So we can put it up on our Bambu service and on other network, cable and streaming platforms so it all becomes discoverable."
"For us, it's all a big experiment and beta test. We'll serve up diverse content from China, and see what works, then refine our programming strategy and focus."
Cinedigm has also inked a deal with "Future Today," a digital content company founded by two Indian entrepreneurs from Stanford with 600 channels that features a lot of kid's shows, animation and lifestyle shows.
And McGurk wants to do it transparently. He has a low opinion of the giant streaming services and how miserly they are with audience data. "They have no integrity. They keep all the important data to themselves," he criticized.
"We intend to share our data with our content partners so that our digital platform can act as a real-time, beta-testing, feedback loop that allows for the Chinese content community to assess their products in the marketplace and fine tune their content offerings."
Cinedigm is also keen on expanding their online services into China, India and Southeast Asia.
McGurk's strategy in China is one based on making the long-term cultural investment to genuinely understand the Chinese people and market, rather than approach it with a shortsighted "snatch and grab" approach focused on grabbing market-share.