Former Disney Chief Announces New Studio With “Significant” Chinese Investment
Dick Cook, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, announced Monday the formation of his own entertainment company with a $150 million investment from CITIC Guoan, a division of China’s largest conglomerate.
The company, to be known as Dick Cook Studios, will be based in Southern California and focus on developing, producing, marketing and distributing family-friendly live-action and animated motion pictures. Cook, who made the announcement while at the Beijing International Film Festival, said the company will start by producing two to three films a year and hopefully grow to make about six to eight annually. He said the company will also set up a joint venture in China to produce similarly focused Chinese films for the Asian market with a target of turning out three movies over the next four years.
“Our mission will always be to provide the very best in family entertainment inclusive of all generations, which inspires, engages, excites and always contributes positively not only to our communities but to the world at large,” Cook said. “This has been quite a journey for all of us,” Cook said. “It takes time to find the right company and people you want to be in business with.”
CITIC Guoan, part of the state-owned CITIC Group, is involved in myriad entertainment ventures ranging from tourism to publishing to sports. Its investment is the latest significant investment by a Chinese company in an American entertainment company: Hunan TV invested $375 million in Lionsgate; real estate firm Fosun gave $200 million to Studio 8 production company and Huayi Bros. studio announced last month it would invest in producing 18 movies with STX Entertainment. And it was three years ago that the Chinese real estate conglomerate, Dalian Wanda, agreed to buy AMC Theaters for $2.6 billion.
CITIC Guoan chairman Li Shilin said his company not only decided to invest in the new studio because of Cook’s near-40 years of experience at virtually every level of the motion picture ladder but because his company believed Cook understood and respected China’s culture.
“With Mr. Cook and his highly respected team, we are guaranteed that every segment of our cooperation will be of the highest standards,” he said. “They appreciate and understand traditional Chinese culture, and they look forward to telling Chinese stories that will play to families across the globe. We both believe that cultural works in spreading love and positive energy is the world’s eternal theme.” “
That Cook would gravitate toward making films accessible to families designed to inspire is not surprising, after all he was an executive producer on the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, and there is something of the underdog element in his own story. He began his affiliation with Disney in 1970 working as a ride operator – monorail, steam locomotive – and eventually movie on to the company’s studio unit where he would eventually rise to head Buena Vista Pictures Distribution before being named studio chief in 2002.
Cook, who traveled to China four times over the past year to set up the deal, said CITIC Guoan’s investment will serve as a “significant building block” in the formation of Dick Cook Studios.
“China is very important to us because of its rich history and culture. We look forward to telling quality stories for the entire family that will live on from generation to generation and we know this will live on,” said Cook who looked undeniably ecstatic and why not? Monday was Dick Cook’s birthday.