Universal Pictures opened its first office in Beijing on Monday to handle production and distribution of films and consumer products in the lucrative Chinese market.

The office will be headed by Jo Yan, managing director and executive vice president of Universal’s China operations. Prior to Universal, Yan worked at Walt Disney Co., including as senior vice president handling distribution for greater China.

Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast Corp., parent company of Universal; Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment; and Universal Pictures International Distribution President Duncan Clark all attended the opening.

Shell told entertainment industry trade publication Hollywood Reporter that the studio is putting more emphasis on making co-productions with Chinese partners.

“We felt China was so important that, just a film-only basis, having our own office to manage distribution made sense," Shell was quoted in Hollywood Reporter.

This is the second big announcement regarding China coming from Universal.

Last month, the studio announced plans for a $3.3 billion theme park on 300 acres in suburban Beijing that will open in 2019. The park will be jointly owned by Beijing Shouhuan, a consortium of four Chinese state-owned companies, and Universal Parks & Resorts in Orlando, a division of NBCUniversal.

The project will mix Chinese-themed attractions with popular film character-based rides and exhibits found at the other Universal parks, including Harry Potter and Transformers.

The theme park will tap into what is becoming a lucrative market for Chinese tourism dollars and will compete against other entertainment projects being built by U.S. companies.

Walt Disney Co. is constructing the $5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, scheduled to open in 2015. Disney’s first foray into China was Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005 at a cost of $3 billion and underwent a $500 million expansion two years ago.

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. in Glendale has a 45 percent stake in the $2.4 billion Dream Center being built with Chinese partners in Shanghai. It is scheduled to open by early 2018 with movie theaters, bars, restaurants, performance venues and a theater district modeled on Broadway and London’s West End.

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