Published : Tuesday, February 26, 2019 | 5:54 AM
Some of the most important statuettes awarded at the Feb. 24 Academy Awards returned to Pasadena once the after-parties had wound down.
The big winner was “Green Book,” a civil rights comedy-drama co-produced by Pasadena-based Alibaba Pictures, together with Participant Media and Dreamworks Pictures.
The film beat seven other movies at the 91st Oscars to win best picture, while also scoring wins in the best original screenplay and best actor in a supporting role, categories; a pretty good haul of hardware on any night.
Last month, “Green Book” won best motion picture-musical or comedy, best supporting actor, and best screenplay at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, marking a milestone for Alibaba Pictures and making it the first Internet company affiliate to ever produce a best picture winner.
“Green Book,” set in 1962, is inspired by the true story of a tour through the Deep South by black classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard.
Other Oscar nominated films with Alibaba involvement include Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” and “On the Basis of Sex,” an early-years biopic of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Even though Alibaba Pictures is a relatively new entrant into Hollywood, we have a track record of choosing quality projects that not only have high entertainment value, but also have the positive messages we believe in,” said Alibaba President Wei Zhang. “We are honored to co-finance this Oscar-winning film and introduce it to Chinese audiences.”
The film debuted in the U.S. last November and scored 94 out of 100 on film and television review website Rotten Tomatoes. It wrapped up awards season winning 18 awards on 54 nominations globally.
Alibaba Pictures, an affiliate of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group, occupied the Pasadena Playhouse Plaza in 2016 with relatively little fanfare for a company ranked among the world’s 10 most valuable and successful brands, according to brand equity database BrandZ.
Last year, Zhang described Alibaba as a “platform company” whose goal was to make a big splash in the entertainment pool.
“We’re not here to create another traditional movie studio,” Zhang said at the time. “We are a new movie infrastructure company with Internet DNA; we use technology, data and our ecosystem to bring more efficiency and transparency to the filmmaking process.”
Zhang said the intention is to grow Alibaba’s role as a gateway between Hollywood and China by developing appropriate content for what represents the world’s largest viewer audience with 1.4 billion people.
“Green Book” is scheduled to be shown in China starting this March 1.
Alibaba’s other hit movies include “Alita: Battle Angel,” a motion-capture sci-fi movie written by James Cameron; “Mission Impossible: Fallout,” produced in collaboration with Paramount Pictures; “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Journey,” in collaboration with Amblin Partners.
The group also co-produced and co-distributed the hit Chinese sci-fi movie “The Wandering Earth,” which has generated over four billion yuan ($598 million) in box-office sales.