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Spielberg's new partnership brings Hollywood closer to China

China's box office potential became evident earlier this year, and Hollywood has noticed.

VCG, VCG via Getty Images

Steven Spielberg has teamed up with China's second-richest man to produce and distribute films, Reuters reports.

The deal announced earlier this week will see Jack Ma's Alibaba Pictures, a unit of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, gain a minority equity stake and a board seat in Spielberg's Amblin Partners, which was founded last December.

The goals of the partnership are two-fold. First, Alibaba pictures will have the option to invest in films made by Amblin. On the other, Alibaba will help market and distribute Amblin's movies in China, taking advantage of the retailer's significant marketing and branding powers.

That's a big deal, too. China's Hollywood potential was hinted at earlier this year when "Warcraft", a fantasy film based on the Warcraft video game franchise, made over $220 million at the Chinese box office. That's over half of the $433 million it made globally, meaning the populous nation saved the flick from being a financial disaster.

It'll also help "bring Chinese-themed stories to the American audience," Spielberg said at a press conference in Beijing.

Alibaba isn't the first company to see value in a partnership with Hollywood. Earlier in the year, China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, purchased American production house Legendary Pictures, makers of "Pacific Rim" and "Man of Steel". The company is currently in the midst of producing a huge East-meets-West fantasy epic called The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou.