Tue, Sep 24, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Tycoon plans to turn Qingdao into China’s Hollywood

AP, QINGDAO, China

Actor John Travolta shakes hands with fans during a red carpet event promoting Wanda Group’s Oriental Movie Metropolis project in Qingdao, China, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

China’s richest man plans to invest 50 billion yuan (US$8.2 billion) to build the country’s version of Hollywood in Qingdao.

Wang Jianlin (王健林) said on Sunday that his company, Dalian Wanda Group (萬達集團), will build a massive, state of the art film studio complex in a bid to dominate China’s rapidly growing movie market.

The Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis’s 20 studios will include a permanent underwater studio and a 10,000m2 lot that Wang said would be the world’s biggest. The facility will also include an Imax research and development center, cinemas and China’s biggest film and celebrity wax museums.

The first phase is planned to open in June 2016 and it will be fully operational by June 2017.

The company has signed a preliminary deal with “a number of global film and television giants and talent agencies” to shoot about 30 foreign films a year. It did not name the companies.

Wang also hopes to attract more than 50 Chinese production companies to make at least 100 domestic films and TV shows a year.

Dalian Wanda, which operates cinemas, hotels and department stores in China, last year bought the US cinema chain AMC for US$2.6 billion.

The tycoon unveiled his Qingdao plans with a glitzy red carpet event featuring Hollywood celebrities that underlined his outsized ambitions for China’s entertainment industry. Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and Catherine Zeta-Jones rubbed elbows with Chinese stars, including Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Jet Li (李連杰) and Tony Leung (梁朝偉), at the event in Qingdao.

In an interview, Wang boasted of his plans to expand in China’s movie market, which overtook Japan to become the world’s second-biggest after ticket sales rose 36 percent last year to US$2.7 billion.

“There’s no single company in the whole world that has a big-scale production base, and at the same time has screening and distribution channels. Wanda Group is the first one in the world,” Wang said. “As long as we build the film production park and produce better content, we’ll certainly be the most successful company in this industry.”

China’s government allows only 34 foreign films per year for national distribution. At least 14 of them must be made in 3D or for the big-screen Imax format.

The Hurun Report named Wang China’s richest person this month.

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