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Wanda invests $30 million in first US film

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2015-07-28 14:19:54


The boxing film Southpaw, backed by a $30 million production investment from Chinese property developer Wanda Dalian Corp, took in $20 million during its opening weekend at US and international box offices.

The filmstarring Jake Gyllenhaal is the first investment in a US movie by Beijing-based Wanda, which owns the second-largest US movie theater chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to Wanda's investment, the Weinstein Co spent $35 million marketing the film, according to the newspaper, and the two companies will split any profit.

Southpaw grossed $16.5 million in the domestic box office and $3.5 million internationally. Though it has not been released in China, Weinstein Co is hoping that Wanda's investment will make it more likely that the government will allow the release in Chinese theaters, it was reported.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the movie has not been well-received by critics. Variety magazine called it "heavy handed" and the Los Angeles Times said it was "gleefully preposterous."The Wall Street Journal said Southpaw is " a win for Mr Gyllenhaal, while the movie loses out to its clichés". And The New York Times' critic wrote: "It's strictly an undercard bout, displaying enough heart and skill to keep the paying customers from getting too restless".

Rob Cain, a California-based producer who has worked on US and Chinese film productions, said that a company of Wanda's size has the capital to invest, and backingSouthpaw might have been a way for it to learn about the American film-making process. David Glasser, president of Weinstein, told the Journal that Wanda was on the set and involved in all parts of the process. "They wanted to learn how we do what we do," he said.

"They've got lots of money to play with, and I think they're going to continue to be mainly focused on the domestic Chinese market, but maybe what they're doing is taking an opportunity to spend some money to invest and learn about the American approaches to filmmaking, and strategies and what goes into marketing films. I don't think learning is the only reason, but that's maybe one of their motivations for making an investment like this," said Cain.

Though Weinstein Co invested in Southpaw's marketing, Wanda is the sole financier of the project for investing in production, a "much riskier" investment for a company, he said. Marketing investments are the last part of a film project and the first to get recouped if a movie does well in the box office, and investment in production is not always guaranteed, Cain added.

"It's my sense that they're still exploring whether and how much they want to invest in purely American films," Cain said. "The appetite in China is mainly for spectacles, effects-driven movies that have a lot of action. There haven't been many dramas that have done very well there, so there isn't much of a track record of this kind of film doing well in China."