Wanda beckons Hollywood with hefty subsidy

Updated: 2016-10-18 11:07

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, courted Hollywood's studios and stars at a gala on Monday night, where he was expected to announce a 40 percent production subsidy to lure filmmakers to his new movie studio in East China.

The 61-year-old billionaire chairman of international real estate firm Dalian Wanda Group was hosting the invitation-only gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti were expected to be attending.

Funding for the subsidy would come from Wanda and the regional government in Qingdao, Shandong province, site of the $8.2 billion studio that is expected to be completed in 2018.

It will apply to makers of films and television shows. The subsidy was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter last week.

Rental equipment, set construction and accommodations will be eligible for the production subsidy, according to Reuters.

The subsidy "has the potential to be game-changing for film and television production in China", said Marc Ganis, co-founder of US distributor Jiaflix, which does business in China.

"China has attracted non-domestic movie productions with the intent of tapping into the Chinese box office in a more meaningful way. But it has attracted far less of film and TV production that is not focused on revenues and audiences from China," he said.

Places like Canada, the UK and several states in the US are popular shooting locations because of shooting incentives, which have created additional jobs and given technical crews experience, which creates a "sustainable, ongoing industry", Ganis said.

The 408-acre Qingdao Movie Metropolis has 15 completed stages and 11 production workshops, including one of the world's largest soundstages, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The sequel to the 2013 Pacific Rim will be the first American film to shoot at the studio.

The Qingdao studio was first announced in 2013, complete with a red-carpet event that drew film-industry leaders like Isaacs and Harvey Weinstein and actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman.

Wanda has been aggressively seeking acquisitions and partnerships with Hollywood studios.

It purchased Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion early this year, and Wang has expressed his interest in acquiring one of the "Big Six" Hollywood studios. Recently, Wanda formed an investment alliance with Sony Pictures, saying it will invest in Sony films and help highlight "China elements" of the movies, according to the companies.

Wanda was reportedly discussing an acquisition of Dick Clark Productions, which would put it in charge of a company that produces some of America's biggest award shows, like the Golden Globe Awards and Miss America.

Wanda's aggressiveness has drawn the attention of the US Congress, with 16 members writing a letter to the Government Accountability Office last month expressing concern over foreign companies investing in important US sectors, citing as examples Wanda's purchase of Legendary and its acquisition of AMC Theaters in 2012.

In an editorial published on Monday headlined "Red Stars Over Hollywood", with the subhead "Chinese investment in U.S. movies isn't a security threat", The Wall Street Journal criticized the aim of the letter.

"US regulators shouldn't intrude into how movies get made," the editorial said, because including "soft power" institutions like the media in the definition of national security, as the lawmakers mentioned in their letter, would "politicize investment in a huge swath of the economy".

The editorial ended with, "The answer to China's Hollywood power play is more competition, not more government control over media."