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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Warner Brothers Entertainment and investment firm China Media Capital (CMC) are forming a joint venture to develop Chinese-language movies for the international market, they said on Sunday.
The joint venture, called Flagship Entertainment Group Ltd, is being launched ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's official visit to the United States next week and underscores the growing influence of Chinese movies around the world.
"The country's incredibly rich history and culture provide a huge trove of great stories, and we want to help tell those stories for new generations of filmgoers, in China and around the world," Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros, said in the statement announcing the venture.
Warner Bros is part of Time Warner Inc.
The first titles bearing the new imprint could be released as early as 2016, the statement said.
For Hollywood studios, the allure of the Chinese box office has become increasingly difficult to resist.
While box office receipts in the United States and Canada combined fell 5 percent last year to $10.4 billion compared with 2013, box office receipts in China jumped 34 percent, to $4.8 billion in the same period, according to the Motion Picture Association of America Inc.
China is on course to set a new record this year - box office receipts were $3.3 billion in the first half of 2015.
Warner and CMC said the Chinese box office is on track to surpass $10 billion annually in the next four years.
"This partnership with Hollywood's most iconic studio will bring Warner Bros' deep experience in creative storytelling and unparalleled expertise in producing global titles to China's film industry," CMC founder and Chairman Ruigang Li said.
Flagship will marry the expertise of Hollywood's largest studio with China Media's investment and operational platform dedicated to the media and entertainment industry. It will be owned 51 percent by CMC and 49 percent by Warner Bros.
Hong Kong broadcaster TVB, as part of the CMC consortium, will have a 10 percent stake in the venture, the statement added.
Flagship plans to develop and produce a wide range of films for distribution throughout China and around the world, utilizing Warner Bros' global film distribution network.
Raine Group was a financial adviser to Warner Bros on the deal.
Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Leslie Adler