Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s dreams of a building Hollywood empire continue to take shape after his Dalian Wanda Group signed a deal with Sony Pictures last week to collaborate on movie projects.
The alliance between the Chinese property developer turned entertainment conglomerate and the $8.3 billion US film, television and distribution giant calls for Wanda to promote a number of Sony’s upcoming releases through its Cinema Line theatres in China, as well as providing equity co-financing for some projects, according to a statement by the mainland-based firm.
“The Chinese market for Hollywood films continues to boom, and this alliance gives a huge boost to our ability to connect directly with its audiences,” Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group said in a statement.
Wanda Debuts With Sony as Paramount Deal Fades to Black
The move comes as Wanda continues to fight for a bigger role in the global cinema market, and came on the same day that Viacom announced it would not be selling a stake in Paramount Studios to Wanda or anyone else. The 49 percent stake in the legendary studio was valued at $2 billion by RBC Capital Markets, however, the Los Angeles Times reported Dalian Wanda offered as much as $5 billion for the stake.
Wang last month said that he intends to buy at least one major US studio, and in July Wanda announced it plans to increase revenue from its entertainment business to RMB 150 billion ($22.5 billion) by 2020. Earlier this year, Wang acquired Legendary Entertainment, the production firm that created the Dark Knight series of Batman films, for $3.5 billion.
On the distribution-side, Wang is already a global force. Already the world’s biggest cinema owner, Wanda expanded its footprint this year, when its US-based theatre subsidiary, AMC Entertainment Holdings acquired London-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group for $1.2 billion.
With some 7,600 movie screens around the world under his control, the Chinese billionaire now seems determined to own the films being shown there, and Wanda’s deal with Sony fits with this drive. The entertainment company, which owns the Columbia Pictures brand, is responsible for some of Hollywood’s iconic films, including the Spider-Man franchise and Rain Man.
Wang may also being looking to the new partnership to raise China’s influence in Hollywood, after the politically connected former PLA office revealed this month that he wants to see more Chinese movies in US movie theatres. “The alliance will help strengthen Wanda’s power to influence the global film industry, and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment,” Bloomberg reported the developer as saying in a statement.
Another Plot Twist In Wanda’s Beverly Hills Saga
During the same week Wanda officially found out they would not be acquiring a stake in Paramount Studios, its ongoing battle with the Beverly Hilton over a planned Los Angeles real estate project invested by the Chinese firm made more news.
A labor union of hotel workers, UNITE HERE Local 11, accused the mainland developer of channeling money to a committee so they would oppose a ballot measure sponsored by the Beverly Hilton.
The two have been locked in a dispute over each other’s plans. The Hilton wants to build a 375-foot condominium tower on the corner of Merv Griffin Way and Santa Monica Blvd. On the other side of the intersection, Wanda is planning to build two towers that feature hotel and residential space.
Beverly Hilton owner Beny Alagem complained the service entrance of the Wanda project where garbage trucks pass is situated directly across from the entrance to the Beverly Hilton, where valets welcome celebrity guests.
This prompted Wanda to send out mailers denouncing Alagem’s plans to voters. The Hilton project is on the November ballot and residents will vote to approve or reject it. According to Variety, the mailers state they were paid for by American affiliates of the Wanda Group.