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Spotlight: China's Wanda Group injects new impetus into China-U.S. film cooperation with 750-million USD fund

Updated: 10 20 , 2016 14:41
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 18 -- The China Dalian Wanda Group's 750-million-U.S.-dollar plan to attract Hollywood production to China has successfully catched the eye of the entire Hollywood, driving high the expectation for a bridge linking American and Chinese film-making communities.

The 61-year-old chairman of China's Dalian Wanda Group, Wang Jianlin, announced a 750-million-U.S.-dollar fund for Hollywood films to shoot at Wanda's studio in Qingdao, China, which is scheduled to open fully in 2018.

Ceryl Boons Isaac, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said "it's a coming together with cultures, creativity and community. Hollywood is an increasingly interconnected global community, which is deeply influenced by the rest of the world."

"We have so much in common," Ms. Boons Isaac said of the Chinese and American film industries. "Art, creativity, conscience and conviction. Just telling your story hoping that someone, somewhere whether watching in a dark movie theater or on a computer screen will see their own reflection in your vision."

With an investment of over 7 billion dollars, the massive film studio Wanda is building in Qingdao, officially known as the Qingdao Movie Metropolis, was designed by the Pinewood Group, a Britain-based industry leader in state-of-the-art sound stage construction and management.

Once completed, the project will span about 408 acres (about 1.65 square km) and comprise 30 stages, including the world's largest indoor film stage, at 100,000 square feet (about 9,200 square meters) -- nearly twice the size of the world's current biggest one at Pinewood London.

Legendary Entertainment's sequel film "Pacific Rim: Maelstrom" will be the first U.S. production to shoot there.

Meanwhile, Jack Gao, head of Wanda's cultural industry group, announced a 40 percent rebate of certain cost for film and TV projects that shot in Qingdao, including set construction, costume, stage rental and post production.

Wang predicted that by 2026, the Chinese box office will gross more than 30 billion dollars annually -- representing about 40 percent to 50 percent of the world-wide total.

The United Statescurrently has 40,000 movie-theater screens. After around 8,000 new screens increased in China in 2016, China roughly has the same amount of screens with the U.S. and will have about 140,000 to 150,000 new screens in 10 years, according to Wang.

"China will be half of the global market," Wang said. "If you want to make money in this market, you will have to understand and please Chinese audiences."

"You cannot try to just make money in the Chinese market and disregard Chinese tastes," he said.

Wang also urged Hollywood films to "increase the quality," drawing some chuckles as he criticized U.S. studios for having "less original stories" and for stressing technology rather than storytelling.

He has made himself the biggest Chinese deal-maker in U.S. film business by buying Legendary Entertainment -- one of the producers of "Jurassic World" and "The Dark Knight" -- and the U.S. cinema chain AMA Entertainment Holdings.

In another development, Wang's large-scale investment and acquisition of U.S. companies also raised some frowns in America.

According to local media, 16 members of U.S. Congress have asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the implications of foreign acquisitions, pointing to Wanda's acquisition of a string of companies in recent years.

For his part, Wang said he was speaking from a "business perspective" in encouraging films that appeal to Chinese audiences, not a political one. And his purpose is to make money in entertainment industry, not to touch political issues.

He insisted that it was a mistake to think the rise of Qingdao Movie Metropolis would result in a loss of job opportunities in Hollywood. "The Hollywood companies will be able to see less cost and more return," he said, "this is an opportunity for Hollywood, not a competition for Hollywood."

"Wanda offers something that none of its global competitors does: special access to the fastest-growing film market in the world," Gao said.

As one of China's leading real-estate company, Wanda marched into the entertainment industry in recent years. It has acquired a string of companies, including AMA Theaters and Carmike Cinemas, as well as Legendary Entertainment in the United States.

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