Wanda's Hollywood premiere gets red-carpet welcome

Updated: 2014-08-13 10:36

By Cindy Liu in Los Angeles (China Daily USA)

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Hollywood has welcomed a new neighbor from China with open arms - Wanda Group, China's largest commercial property developer and owner of the AMC theater chain. Wanda recently announced it would take over a plot at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills and invest $1.2 billion in advancing its presence in Tinseltown.

"We are honored that such a successful Chinese business group has made an investment in our community," said Julie Wagner, CEO of the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau. "This is just another demonstration of the wonderful relationship between our community and the people and businesses of China. We look forward to the evolution of the project and know that it will have a great impact on our city from both an economic and a cultural perspective."

"The Los Angeles project is expected to aid in China's entry into Hollywood's film industry and generally promote Chinese culture abroad," Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda Group, said in a statement on Aug 8. "The Los Angeles office will be able to leverage Hollywood's solid film industry resources to support the group's Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis and Qingdao International Film Festival projects in China."

 Wanda's Hollywood premiere gets red-carpet welcome

A view of 9900 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, where China's Wanda Group bought a plot for its next step in entering the heart of the film industry in Hollywood. Huang Xilin / For China Daily

For Beverly Hills, Wanda is not the first Chinese film and media company poised to invest here. In June, following the first ever Huading Awards presentation in Hollywood, Global Talents Media Group announced that it would establish an office in Beverly Hills this fall and make the Huading Awards an annual event in Los Angeles.

To many Hollywood filmmakers, China, the second-largest market for movies, presents a big opportunity to make money outside of the US. Now, thanks to Wanda, that opportunity is just around the corner.

"I think it is a good thing," said Robert Lundberg, senior vice-president of China Lion Film Distribution, one of the biggest global distributors of Chinese films to North American markets.

"There is eagerness for investors in films," Lundberg said. "Being a film-lover myself, anytime you see people are interested in films and interested in investing films, you are going to see that this market is so vast. This is just so exciting."

Analysts say Wanda's aim is to acquire the core competency of Hollywood. Their LA office will handle all investments in entertainment, including investment in local film production companies and global theatrical releases.

"It certainly seems like a very smart approach," said Lundberg. "If there is acquisition, you can certainly control what is happening under that acquisition."

"On the other hand, in general, audiences in North America just don't know how many talents are there in China," Lundberg said. "People don't know how many good stories can be filmed internationally and brought to North American audiences."

Another thing analysts predict Wanda can take advantage of is the opening up of international co-production channels for many US filmmakers, allowing them to enter China without worrying about the quota system.

Many studios today are seeking out official co-productions - in which a Chinese company works with an American studio in financing and creating a film - since it allows the film to bypass the Chinese foreign-film quota system and bring their distributors a 43 percent share of ticket sales, rather than the 25 percent allotted to foreign-made films.

"Everything will be under a co-production facility," said Jonathan Taplin, a professor at University of Southern California. "At least they don't have the problem of quota like many other local US films."

Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin said earlier in his statement that the company's Qingdao complex in eastern China would host 30 foreign co-productions, in addition to 100 domestic productions.

"I think in today's global economy, Chinese companies' increasing interest in media and entertainment is a positive," said Hollywood film veteran Stephan Manpearl, owner of Manpearl Entertainment Marketing. "The entertainment industry is constantly in need of capital, therefore I think there will considerable opportunities for other Chinese companies to look at viable situations."


(China Daily USA 08/13/2014 page2)