A Chinese Company Is Suing Over Its Product Placement In Trans4mers

Despite having possibly the best theater standee I’ve ever seen, Trans4mers is either 166 minutes or 157 minutes long, depending on who you ask, which in either case is at least 120 minutes longer than I ever want to spend watching a Transformers movie. Meanwhile, if the TV spots are any indication, the whole thing is stuffed so full of product placement that you should get a free massage for sitting through it, like a time share presentation. Product placement is such a big part of the business, in fact, that a Chinese company is suing other Chinese companies involved in the production for $1.8 million.

From Variety:

Beijing Pangu Investment Co., a real estate developer who was brought on to the production’s Chinese marketing campaign, is suing two other companies involved in the production [Jia Bin China Co., Ltd and Beijing Cheng Xin Sheng Shi Sports and Culture Development Co., Ltd.]. It is alleging breach of contract in an effort to recover its $1.8 million investment, according to court filings. […]

In an interview with Variety, Sid Ganis said his company was not named in the suit, but he felt a need to set the record straight because of the lengths Pangu has gone to try to block the picture’s release. His company helped line up Chinese sponsors such as Pangu, he said.

“The Pangu Hotel, both the exterior and interior, is featured prominently in the film,” said Ganis. “If there’s such a thing as successful product placement, what it got was successful product placement. I can’t answer what bugged them.”

It’s fitting that this story hit on the same day as another big Variety piece on the China Film Group, which is going public, even though it’s been run by the Chinese government since 1949 (who will remain the majority shareholder). CFG’s got their fingers all up in Hollywood’s biz, co-producing Jaden Smith’s Karate Kid movie (among others), which is only a problem insofar as China Film Group is the only company allowed to distribute foreign movies in China. Which, obviously, gives it a disproportionate amount of clout in any disagreement with American companies increasingly relying on the Chinese market to return their investments. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but there are a billion people in China.

Last year was also the year when CFG’s relations with Hollywood distributors were tested by a dispute that saw CFG withhold the newly expanded share of box office revenues owed to the studios. CFG temporarily queried the application of a value added tax introduced as part of China’s tax code and eventually agreed to make full payments. But the incident led to a curious business and political dance, in which the studios sought to pressure CFG for their missing millions, but had to do so gently and through diplomatic channels for fear of skirmishing with the country’s monopoly revenue share distributor.

And their reach is expanding.

In 2014, CFG announced that it will board as co-producer of Paramount’s “Marco Polo” project, and it will be a minority financial investor, putting up at least $10 million in a pair of fantasy features, “Warcraft” and “Seventh Son,” hatched by Legendary Pictures. It is the first time that CFG’s China Film Co. subsidiary has invested directly in Hollywood movies and gives the company a piece of the films’ equity, to be recouped on a worldwide basis.

Basically, expect a lot more of these disagreements, as one of the most cronyist, old school businesses around (Hollywood) runs up against Chinese execs who aren’t even that used to capitalism, let alone Hollywood’s distorted version of it. I mean, talk about a Chinese fire drill. …What? Oh, I’m not allowed to use that term anymore? Pff, can’t joke about nuthin’ no more.

PS, I clicked on Trans4mers’ Facebook page to find a picture for this story, and I swear on my life, that banner image was the FIRST THING that came up. I think Michael Bay thinks he’s about to eat sushi off a 50-foot naked woman.