A consortium led by Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu is scouring Hollywood for film companies to acquire, in a sign of China’s growing interest in the US entertainment industry.

Mr Wu, Harvest Global Investment, and Pacific Alliance Group, the fund run by former TPG China head Shan Weijian, held preliminary talks with Summit Entertainment, the company behind the blockbuster Twilight vampire films, and Colony Capital, which owns Miramax, about a proposed deal to merge the two companies and then acquire the new entity, according to people familiar with the situation.

The consortium lost out to Lions Gate Entertainment, the independent film studio which this month agreed to acquire Summit for $413m.

“This is the closest Chinese investors have come so far to buying into a major Hollywood brand,” said one person close to the Chinese bidders. “It would have been a huge thing for the Chinese film industry.”

The Chinese investors are keen to continue talks with Miramax to explore alternative deals. Another person familiar with their plans said they were also eyeing a bigger prize.

“We are looking at a new target, a Hollywood brand even bigger than Summit,” the person said. Another person involved in the discussions said the Chinese consortium was keen to acquire Lions Gate, the studio behind the hotly anticipated The Hunger Games films, based on a best-selling book series.

The sale of Summit is likely to lead to further consolidation in Hollywood. Studios have closed or sold non-core divisions specialising in edgier movies while the remaining independent production and distribution companies are also exploring their options.

A large stake in Relativity Media, which produced Immortals and released Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, is being sold by Elliott Associates, the New York hedge fund. JPMorgan was in talks to acquire the 50 per cent stake but negotiations broke down. Elliott is now in talks with Ron Burkle, the California retail billionaire.

Chinese interest in Hollywood comes as the domestic box office hit Rmb13bn in 2011, up 30 per cent from a year earlier, driven by the rapid construction of new screens. But domestically made films often struggle to attract Chinese audiences.

The Chinese government, determined to build the country’s soft power by projecting a better image abroad through culture and to maintain control at home through censorship, is strongly supporting the local industry and restricting foreign rivals.

Beijing continues to limit the number of foreign films that can be shown in Chinese cinemas to 20 a year and is pushing local film groups to agree more co-productions with global peers. Co-productions offer a route into the Chinese market for foreign studios because they are exempt from the annual quota.

This has led to a number of co-production partnerships between Chinese and Hollywood companies being struck over the past year. Not all of these have gone smoothly: Legendary Entertainment, the co-producer of films such as The Dark Knight and The Hangover, recently postponed a $220m fundraising on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after it failed to attract sufficient investor interest.

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