Ever wanted to know how many bumper cars, rigged midway games, oversized spinning tea cups and people dressed up as cartoon animals could be bought with $47 billion? Well, Dalian Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin will soon have the answer after his conglomerate committed that amount to building theme parks in China since August of this year.
Of that total, $32.4 billion was announced by Wanda in the past two weeks with the mall developer most recently signing an agreement with the government of China’s Shaanxi province to invest RMB103 billion ($15 billion) in building theme parks and commercial centers in the region. The deal includes the construction of a Wanda City complex in the capital of Xi’an, that already hosts a slightly older attraction — China’s 2000-year-old terra cotta warriors.
That agreement came less than a week after Wanda signed a similar agreement with the city of Changsha in Hunan province. The company’s self-proclaimed cultural industry group committed to investing RMB120 billion ($17.4 billion) in the central Chinese province, with the funds earmarked toward building a Wanda City in Changsha, along with 15 Wanda Plaza shopping complexes across Hunan.
The moves are Wanda’s latest in their attempts to have 15 Wanda City projects across China by 2020 as the firm hopes to battle Disney for China entertainment dominance. Perhaps subscribing to the theory of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, Wang has been seen playing nice with the company behind the mouse ears. China’s richest man visited Shanghai Disneyland last month and also met with Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert A Iger.
Saturating The Market With Theme Parks In Second Tier Locations
While Disney chose the commercial centre of Shanghai for its China park, Wanda’s strategy has focused more on volume and choosing locations off the beaten path. This year it already opened a new theme park in Nanchang, the capital of southern China’s Jiangxi province.
In September, the firm opened the first phase of its $5.1 billion Wanda City project in the city of Hefei in economically-challenged Anhui province that included a theme park and hotels. The next phase of the complex in the works will see an indoor recreation project constructed with further add-ons being planned.
The opening came a month after Wanda revealed plans for a RMB 63 billion ($9.45 billion) tourism and sports complex in Jinan, an industrial city in northern China’s Shandong province. In addition to all the usual fun and games, the Jinan project will host a 10,000-seat arena designed to hold sporting events such as ice hockey.
Theme Park Success for China’s Richest Man Not Guaranteed
With some $47 billion worth of theme parks in the pipeline, Wanda will need to go back and figure out what went wrong at its first major entertainment center that now sits closed.
Wuhan Wanda Movie Park shut its doors in August for what it called “upgrades and renovation” just 19 months after the RMB 7 billion ($1.05 billion) facility hosted its much-publicized grand opening.
Located in central China’s Hubei province, the park was predicted to welcome three million visitors per year, but the Chutian Metropolis Daily newspaper reported pre-closure crowds being in the low hundreds per day, far less than the anticipated 8,000-10,000 visitors projected to come each day.