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Disney, DMG team up to make 'Iron Man 3' a Chinese co-production

April 16, 2012 |  2:59 am

Iron man 2

The Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel Studios subsidiary said Monday that "Iron Man 3" will be a co-production with China, as the Burbank company teamed with DMG Entertainment of Beijing to co-finance and distribute the film.

Robert Downey, Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle will return for the third movie in the hit franchise, whose two films grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and $42.8 million between them in China. The third installment of the movie will be directed by Shane Black unlike the first two installments which were directed by Jon Favreau. Filming in the U.S. is to start in May, and in China in late summer; the movie is slated for release in May 2013.

Foreign films co-produced in China have an easier time getting cleared by Chinese censors and do not fall under the country's annual import cap. 

“The popularity of the Marvel franchise globally creates a huge opportunity to deliver fans yet another action packed film,” Stanley Cheung, Disney’s greater China managing director, said in a statement.

DMG and Disney did not reveal how much DMG would invest in the production, nor did they give specifics about what plot elements would be shot in China. Last week, DMG's chief executive Dan Mintz told the Los Angeles Times that the film's budget was $200 million.  A Disney spokeswoman said she had not heard what the budget was to be.

DMG is a 19-year-old private Beijing advertising firm-turned-film producer and aspiring distributor. It is a partnership between two Chinese and Mintz, an American. 

DMG will manage the Chinese production elements of “Iron Man 3’’ and keep the China distribution rights.

“Our collaboration with Disney and Marvel marks a milestone in the global entertainment landscape, as this signifies the first multi-billion dollar franchise to be produced between Hollywood and China,” Mintz said in the statement.

DMG boasts close working ties with the state-run China Film Group, the country’s biggest studio and monopoly importer. DMG helped CFG with the production and marketing of two recent major propaganda films, one made to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 2009 and the other the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Both films were hits but were still out-earned by Hollywood imports.

Last spring at a black-tie party, Mintz emceed the announcement of DMG’s partnership with Endgame Entertainment to make Rian Johnson's film “Looper.” DMG added little-known Chinese actress Xu Qing to the time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, which will arrive in U.S. theaters this fall.

In an interview with The Times last week, Mintz said DMG was going to “talk to the whole world but try to infuse Chinese elements.”

The announcement on "Iron Man 3" comes just days after Disney said it would join an initiative with an animation arm of China's Ministry of Culture and China's largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings Ltd., to develop China's animation industry. Disney said it would offer its expertise in areas such as story writing and market research to help develop local Chinese talent.

In the first quarter, China overtook Japan as the world’s second biggest box office market after the U.S. Last year, China's box office posted its 10th consecutive year of double-digit growth to gross $2.08 billion, up 31% from 2010.

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Complete L.A. Times coverage of Hollywood and China

-- Jonathan Landreth in Hong Kong

Photo: Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in the movie "Iron Man 2." Credit: Francois Duhamel / Marvel Entertainment 

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