Chinese tech billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, who is rumoured to have gone missing, has been a huge source of financial backing for Hollywood films over the past half a decade.
Alibaba Pictures, which was set up by Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, has given a marketing push to Chinese films as well as invested money in films of that country. Importantly, Ma also ventured into Hollywood beginning in 2015, and one of the most successful films Alibaba Pictures has backed lately is the 2019 release “1917”, the Sam Mendes triple-Oscar winner that also has Reliance Entertainment and Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks Pictures as producers.
Among the biggest films in which Alibaba Pictures invested is also the 2015 Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. The film had cost around $170 million and earned a worldwide gross of almost $682.7 million.
“‘Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation’ is our first step toward internationalisation, and Alibaba Pictures looks forward to collaborating with more international movie studios where we can consolidate resources, technologies and talents to establish a world-class integrated entertainment platform for the film industry,” Zhang Qiang, CEO of Alibaba Pictures, had said back then, according to deadline.com.
In 2016, the company invested in two Paramount Pictures productions, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows” and “Star Trek Beyond“.
The superhero film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows” was produced on a budget of $135 million (without counting marketing costs), reports screenrant.com. According to collider.com, the Megan Fox-starrer underperformed at the box office as it grossed only $245 million.
The sci-fi adventure “Star Trek Beyond”, on the other hand, was made on a budget of $185 million and minted $340 million worldwide, reports forbes.com. The Chris Pine-starrer was the 13th theatrical feature in the long-running franchise.
In 2018, Alibaba Pictures backed Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible Fallout”. The film went on to gross $791 million worldwide and it turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the franchise, reports businessinsider.com.
Then came Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee’s 2019 action film “Gemini Man”. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures in North America. It was produced by Skydance, in association with China’s Fosun Pictures. Fosun Pictures and Alibaba Pictures were the co-financiers of the Will Smith-starrer, according to Xinhua. It was declared a flop upon release, managing $173 million against a production budget of $138 million.
In 2019, Alibaba-backed “1917” made $368 million on a $95 million budget, reports forbes.com.
That’s not all, according to an article in The Hollywood Reporter published in 2019, Alibaba Pictures Group had extended a $103 million loan to the Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers Media.