DreamWorks Animation has become the second Hollywood studio to enter into a distribution agreement with China's top online video site, Youku.com.
Youku said Monday that it had signed a deal with the Glendale-based animation studio to distribute the "Kung Fu Panda" movies in China, marking the first time that DreamWorks releases have been made available in that country through the Internet.
Both of the previously released "Kung Fu Panda" films, which were hugely popular in China, will be immediately available on Youku's premium on-demand service for less than $1. The movies will subsequently be available for free viewing on Youku's Hollywood Movie Channel.
The deal comes two months after Warner Bros. reached an agreement with Youku to stream 450 of the studio's movies, including the "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" series with Chinese subtitles, on its website for a charge of 46 cents to 77 cents.
To compete against rampant piracy, Youku makes its content cheaper than bootleg DVDs, which cost about $1.50 in China.
"As technology matures and Chinese internet users increasingly turn to the Web for entertainment, Youku has been able to expand on the traditional movie release road map through agreements for studio films such as 'Kung Fu Panda' and 'Kung Fu Panda 2,'" said Victor Koo, chairman and chief executive of Youku. "Both titles have a proven track record of success with Chinese audiences."
The "Kung Fu Panda" pictures, which feature scenery and landscapes inspired by traditional Chinese art and architecture, scored big at the box office in China. "Kung Fu Panda" was the No. 1 movie in China in 2008, while the sequel has grossed more than $92 million.
"Youku is an innovative company with extraordinary reach in China, and we are thrilled that the "Kung Fu Panda" features will now be offered through their platform, which presents high-quality content to consumers online," said Kelley Avery, head of worldwide franchise strategy and distribution for DreamWorks Animation.
Meanwhile, in another sign of China's allure to Hollywood, Beverly Hills-based RealD announced that will partner with Beijing SAGA Luxury Cinema Management Co. to equip the Chinese theater chain with 3-D technology. The RealD agreement will add 100 3-D-capable auditoriums, the partners said. SAGA said it plans to install RealD 3-D technology in up to 20 theatres around the country within three years.
In November, RealD announced a deal with Wanda Cinema, China's largest theater operator, to add up to 500 3-D screens in the country.
Earlier this month, production companies Relativity and Legendary East also announced new ventures in China to co-finance and release movies.
Warner Bros. to distribute films in China on cable TV
U.S. Film producers are engaging the Chinese
Imax reaches deal to open more big screens in China
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: The martial arts action hero Po, played by Jack Black, in "Kung Fu Panda 2." Credit: DreamWorks Animation