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By Laurie Burkitt, Wall Street Journal

DMG Entertainment, Valiant Entertainment to develop films, toys and theme parks

BEIJING–Chinese film company DMG Entertainment is striking a deal with independent comic-book publisher Valiant Entertainment in a move to develop films, toys and theme parks for China’s superhero-crazed consumers.

Beijing-based DMG is investing an undisclosed amount in Valiant to expand publishing, film, television and licensing of Valiant’s comic characters, it said in a statement on Monday. DMG said that it invested “eight figures” in U.S. dollars toward the expansion and another “nine figures” toward producing films and television programs based on Valiant characters, without releasing further details. A spokesman didn’t immediately provide further financial details.

The statement said the companies will focus on Chinese language content to build iconic characters in China and the Asia Pacific.

DMG is betting on China’s strong appetite for action films and superheroes. In 2013, the Chinese company co-produced with Walt Disney Co. “Iron Man 3,” which pulled in $121 million from China’s box offices, more than a quarter of the movie’s $409 million global ticket revenue, according to film database Box Office Mojo. Top 10 grossing films in China last year included “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” at No. 6 with $116.5 million in ticket sales, and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” at No. 7 with $115.6 million.

Film studios in recent years have produced hits based on superheroes from major comic-book publishers. They include Batman and Superman, owned by Time Warner Inc.’s DC Entertainment, and Spider-Man and the Avengers, from Disney’s Marvel.

Valiant, an independent publisher, has a stable of characters that includes X-O Manowar, Shadowman and Harbinger.

DMG and Valiant, formed in 1989 and based in New York, want to build a franchise business that looks more like the one in the U.S., where film characters generate revenue far beyond the screen. The companies will create toys, games, live events and theme parks, the statement said.

Companies like Chinese entertainment giant Dalian Wanda Group Co. are attempting the same thing, creating films and characters and opening parks in China. Universal Parks & Resorts announced in October plans to open a $3.26 billion park in Beijing in the future.

“Audiences in China and the rest of the world are hungry for heroic stories they can more easily relate to,” said DMG President Wu Bing in the statement.