The head of a China-based private equity fund that invested in the surprise Hollywood hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians (reviewed here), wants to show the world the new face of China’s wealthy young in a sequel.
Liu Yang (pictured above), head of China Cultural and Entertainment Fund (CCEF), which bought a stake last year in the movie’s producer SK Global, says she wants the sequel to reflect what young Chinese care about – electronics, the Internet, artificial intelligence and e-sports – to bring global audiences closer to the country’s newest and most dynamic generation.
“The sequel will truly come to China, and it has to reflect the new money. The first movie is about old money, the sequel is about new money,” Liu says in a recent interview. “The sequel has to link to the fresh power in China, the new consumption, the new ideas. We may even rename it Shanghai Rich Girlfriends.” (The 2015 sequel to the novel on which the first movie is based is China Rich Girlfriend.)
Liu has agreed with SK Global president John Penotti that she will be heavily involved in the sequel’s production right from the conception of the screenplay. This is in contrast to the more passive role she took in the making of Crazy Rich Asians, as she “was not very interested” in Singapore, where the film was set.
With a budget of just US$30mil (RM124mil), Crazy Rich Asians – the first Hollywood film featuring an all-Asian cast in 25 years – has taken US$131mil (RM542mil) in global box office sales since it was released in the United States on Aug 15. It topped the US box office for three straight weekends following its release, according to Box Office Mojo, a portal tracking ticket sales.
Based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Singapore-born, US-based author Kevin Kwan, the film follows a young Chinese-American woman who travels to meet her boyfriend’s family and is surprised when she discovers they are among the richest in Singapore. The novel’s initial success spawned not only the 2015 sequel but also a third book, Rich People Problems, in 2017.
However, Liu acknowledges that investing in China’s film market is extremely risky, as only the top 10% of the over 470 movies produced in the country each year break even and only the top 1% actually make big money.
Liu previously lost money on her investment in the 2017 Chinese film The Founding Of An Army, which was commissioned by China’s government to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army. It failed at the box office largely due to a clash of schedules with the military action blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2, which became the top-grossing film of all time in China.
After working for the state-owned investment firm Citic Group in Australia, Liu took the helm of Atlantis Investment Management in 2009. Its flagship Atlantis China Fund has recorded a 12.4% annualised return rate since inception.
Liu later diversified into entertainment-focused private equity, founding CCEF with HK$1bil (RM530mil) raised from her family and closest friends, and has invested in the film The Mermaid, China’s 2016 box office No.1, as well as its upcoming sequel.
SK Global was formed last March by a merger between Ivanhoe Pictures, which focuses on the Asian film market, and Hollywood studio Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. – South China Morning Post