Wanda Group Unveils China’s Answer To Hollywood

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on April 29th, 2018

Qingdao, China: Chinese billionnaire, Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, which controls U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings and U.S. studio Legendary Entertainment, unveiled  a sprawling studio complex during a ceremony at China’s northern port city of Qingdao, Saturday.

Covering an area equivalent to more than 200 soccer pitches, the 400-acre Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis boasts the world’s biggest movie studio and has been touted as China’s answer to Hollywood.

The vast complex, an $8 billion project, built partly on an artificial island,includes a school, a hospital, luxury hotels and a yacht club inspired by one in Monaco.

The mini-city, Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis,  also features a giant shopping mall with restaurants, an ice skating rink, an amusement park and the biggest movie theatre in Asia.

“We will boost the Chinese movie industry development…We will also turn Qingdao into a global hub for film” Wang said at the project’s opening ceremony, making no reference to Hollywood.

This is the largest investment the global film and television industry has ever seen,” the company said.

“April 28, the Qingdao Movie Metropolis, a nearly RMB 50 billion project, was completed after four years and seven months of construction, aiming to become a new center of the global film industry, while driving China’s film industry forward” the company added

Hundreds of Chinese film industry representatives attended, as well as Hollywood executives and Chinese government officials that included the vice governor of Shandong province.

The launch came as the mutual courtship between China and Hollywood looks less rosy.

A handful of U.S.-China film ventures have fallen apart due to cultural clashes. Financing deals — including Wanda’s $1 billion wooing of Hollywood studio Dick Clark Productions — have also collapsed. Hollywood’s share of the Chinese market has lost ground to a surge of popular and sometimes patriotic-minded Chinese films.

“We are not making any commitment yet,” David Kornblum, vice president of international sales and marketing for the Asia-Pacific at Walt Disney Studios, told reporters on the sidelines of the Oriental launch.

Wanda sold off the Qingdao project to rival property developer Sunac China Holdings Ltd last year amid a sweeping sell-down of assets to raise funds. It retains management control of the project.

However Wanda, which has long been luring Hollywood studios to make movies in China, has said its pledged 5 billion yuan ($790 million) “development fund” still stands.

So far, no major American movie has been produced at Oriental, which partially opened in 2016, except Legendary Entertainment’s “Pacific Rim: Uprising” and “Great Wall.”

Wanda, whose interests range from real estate to entertainment, snatched up Legendary Entertainment — maker of “Jurassic World” and Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy — for $3.5 billion in 2016, as well as US-based cinema chain AMC Theatres.

Wanda said previously it aimed to host at least five to six Hollywood projects in its first year of full operation in 2018.

China’s box office revenue is still swelling at double-digit rates after years of breakneck growth and, with Hollywood know-how and bigger budgets, Chinese movies are gaining momentum as they find ways to play on domestic themes and improve production quality.

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Bamidele Ogunberu

Bamidele Ogunberu

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