Where Hollywood Meets China: A ‘Legendary’ Collaboration


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Using Legendary Entertainment as a case study, this thesis examines the relationship between China and Hollywood during the years 2005-2017: the distribution and funding of films, the emergence of co-production partnerships and the geopolitical industrial landscape that has emerged as a result. By tracing the trajectory of Legendary’s Chinese connections, from private investment, to state-financing, to its eventual acquisition by a Chinese company, this thesis explores the company’s vested interests in the development of Chinese partnerships. Therein, this research defines a periodisation and terms to describe the different types of Hollywood-China partnership and interrogates the concept of “Chinawood”. This includes an examination of the growth in the Chinese film market, the business strategies Legendary adopted to aid in developing relations with Chinese film industry institutions and the tactics employed by the studio to enter the Chinese market and cater to Chinese audiences. This thesis examines the promotion of Legendary’s founder - Thomas Tull - as a brand ambassador for the company, offering new and valuable insights into the role of the producer. These findings contribute towards scholarship on industrial organisation; interrogating the distinctions between studio/financier/producer and how these are conflated in the trade discourse. Drawing on primary data from interviews with Hollywood industry personnel, the experience of working with and for Chinese production companies is explored. The successes and failures of The Great Wall (2016), a Legendary Entertainment and China Film Group collaboration, is used as a case study to examine the rise and fall of the Hollywood-China co-production. This data reveals key findings regarding the status of the contemporary Hollywood-China relationship, demonstrating considerable insight and providing a valuable case study which exemplifies the current and recent state of transcultural/transnational relations between Hollywood and China in detail. The Legendary trajectory, as evidenced throughout this thesis, encapsulates the rapidly changing power dynamics of cultural exchange that has existed between the U.S. and China between 2005 and 2017, providing a snapshot of a fascinating and deeply significant period in the tumultuous relationship between the two film industries.
Date of Award13 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorCLAIRE PARKINSON (Director of Studies), HANNAH ANDREWS (Supervisor) & Toby Miller (Supervisor)


  • china
  • hollywood
  • industry studies
  • political economy
  • soft power
  • transnational cinema

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