Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Chinese superstar Jackie Chan have become unlikely business partners.
Not content with domination of China’s e-commerce market, Alibaba’s investments are now seeping into the multiplex.
Alibaba’s digital entertainment crowdfunding platform Yule Bao is a minority investor in Chan’s forthcoming “Dragon Blade”, a $65m (£42.5m) epic that has been labelled one of China’s most expensively produced films of all time and is expected to pull in big box office receipts when it is released over Chinese New Year.
And according to a report in Variety, Yule Bao is likely to continue collaborating with Jackie Chan and his Sparkle Roll Cultural Media group.
The crowdfunding platform sits inside Alibaba’s Taobao mobile app, allowing its users to “invest” in high-end entertainment projects such as games, movies and TV shows they’d like to see. In return, they receive perks such a visit to a set or an autographed poster depending on the level of investment.
Alibaba said its aim for the platform was to allow fans to contribute directly to the films they’d like to see.
As well as Yule Bao and Sparkle Roll, Dragon Blade is being funded by some of the biggest players in China’s entertainment world, such as the China Film Foundation, Huayi Brothers Media Corporation, Shanghai Film Group and new investment group Beijing Cultural Assets Chinese Film and Television Fund.
The English-language film stars John Cusack and Adrien Brody alongside Chan and tells the story of a fictional battle between the Roman Empire and China’s Han Dynasty.
China is increasingly looking to increase its cultural “soft power” overseas by producing its own films and distributing them to a wide overseas market. Its domestic box office sales grew 36 per cent to $4.77bn in 2014, with domestic productions accounting for 55 per cent.