The Hollywood company behind the hit 'Kung Fu Panda' movies is to open a new Shanghai operation to make films specifically for China's booming market, a recruitment firm told AFP on Wednesday.
DreamWorks Animation has hired Los Angeles-based RSR Partners to recruit a president for the planned venture, making it the latest in a line of Hollywood giants to attempt to break into the potentially lucrative market.
No one at the Los Angeles-based DreamWorks could immediately be reached for comment, but a letter from RSR to prospective hires seen by AFP said the company was looking to "establish a production and development presence in China".
The "Kung Fu Panda" movies were made with a Chinese audience in mind and the second in the franchise became the highest-grossing animated feature ever screened in the country when it was released this year, taking 597 million yuan ($93 million).
Several Hollywood companies are trying to get a foothold in China, where box office sales rose 64 percent to $1.5 billion in 2010, making it the world's fastest-growing movie market.
RSR managing director Gary Matus told AFP his firm had been hired to recruit staff for DreamWorks' expansion into China, but that he did not know when the new venture would open.
"There are regulatory hurdles that remain," Matus said, adding that the search process would take at least 90 days.
Foreign media companies setting up shop in China must work with local majority partners and are subject to strict regulations about the sort of content they are allowed to produce for distribution inside the country.
China limits to 20 a year the number of imported films it allows to share box office takings, but foreign companies can skirt the import cap by co-producing films with Chinese partners.
DreamWorks chairman Lewis Coleman met with the state-run China Film Group in Beijing two weeks ago, a source who asked not to be named told AFP.
The move comes weeks after two other Hollywood production companies, Relativity and Legendary, launched ventures with Chinese partners.
In August, DreamWorks became the second Hollywood studio after Warner Brothers to enter into a distribution deal with the popular Chinese online video sharing site Youku.com.
In 2008, the company's co-founder Steven Spielberg drew China's ire by quitting as advisor on the Beijing Olympics to protest the country's failure to pressure the government of Sudan over the conflict in Darfur.