I was watching Jake Gyllenhaals’ new movie Southpaw and I saw this in the opening credits:
万达影业 (Wàndá Yǐngyè) Wanda Pictures. Obviously this was a Chinese company, but for me it was the first time I took note of it in an American movie. After watching the new movie Entourage (based on the HBO show of the same name) I became aware of how many movies are financed by only a handful of bigshots (like the Texan in Entourage, played by Billy Bob Thorton), I got to thinking that Wanda was probably more involved in the investment rather than the production side of move-making.
Surprise, Surprise!! Wanda Pictures owns AMC Theatres (not to be confused with AMC Networks – Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, etc…). AMC Theatres, an American movie theatre chain, is owned and operated by AMC Entertainment Inc., which is then owned by AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc (a holdings company is a great way to avoid paying taxes), which is in itself (majority-) owned by Dalian Wanda Group and Wanda Pictures is one of its divisions)
The Wanda Group, run by China’s richest man – real estate billionaire Wang Jianlin (王健林Wáng Jiànlín) – owns 346 cinema locations in North America, and another 86 locations in Mainland China, making it the world’s largest movie theatre operator.
Jake Gyllenhaals’s new movie Southpaw, which hit theatres last month, was financed entirely by Wanda Pictures – 30 million dollars in total. This makes Southpaw the first American movie to be financed solely by a Chinese company.
China caps the number of foreign films that can be played in Chinese theatres at 34 films per year. But because of the financing arrangement, Southpaw may be counted as a “Chinese” film and therefore exempt from this quota. These partnerships are good for both the US and China, but China seems to be coming out on top as Chinese box office sales are expected to surpass those of US by 2018.
If that wasn’t enough, WanDa is currently building a Chinese Hollywood (known in China as the “Oriental Movie Metropolis”) in the coastal city of Qingdao, an $8.3 billion dollar investment. Wang Jianlin says it will be a “mega-entertainment center that will include a theme park, a film museum, a wax museum and a massive film studio, which (he promises) will be the world’s largest.” The world’s largest film studio! In China!
Hollywood superstars Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ewan McGregor and Kate Beckinsale and Chinese A-listers Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen attended the announcement ceremony of the Movie Metropolis in 2013 in Qingdao.
Chinese Hollywood is planned to open in June 2017 and has plans to crank out 130 films each year, including 30 foreign movies.