Business / Dalian Wanda

Wanda eyes US hotel, movie deals

(Agencies) Updated: 2012-12-04 11:02

BEIJING - Dalian Wanda Group, the world's biggest owner of movie theaters, is in talks with leading Hollywood studios to co-produce films and is looking to buy and build hotels in major US cities.

The privately-owned group's founder and chairman Wang Jianlin, 58 and ranked as China's third-richest man by Forbes, told Reuters on Monday he was talking to "well-known" hotel brands in the United States for possible acquisitions, though he declined to name names.

Wanda bought US movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc for $2.6 billion in September and has earmarked North America for $10 billion of deals over a decade.

Chinese companies should try to do something American people would appreciate, Wang said, such as investing in areas like Kansas or Iowa that really need capital.

"Chinese enterprises being able to go to the United States and acquire companies does represent a kind of soft power," he said. "But this is just the beginning. Chinese firms still lag far behind American companies. Maybe in 10 or 20 years we can stand at the same level."


Wang said his group was in talks with "hotel management companies in the United States ... seeking opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.

"And we're in negotiations with the city governments of Washington DC, New York and other American cities for the construction of hotels, department stores and commercial properties," he said in an interview in Beijing.

Wang said his company was talking with "the top six" Hollywood film studios and will work with 3-4 of them on deals to co-finance and co-produce movies.

China's box-office revenue is growing by about 30 percent a year and could overtake North America by 2018, Wang said, noting "The Life of Pi" earned as much in China as it has in North America. The film, by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, earned $48.4 million in its first two weeks in the United States and Canada.

"In five years, you'll see the box-office revenue of a movie in the Chinese market will be about the same as the US market," he said, adding China's box-office sales should hit $3 billion this year, up from what Chinese authorities reported as $2.1 billion in 2011.

Though a cinema mogul, Wang says he rarely watches movies and has no preference for the films Wanda will help produce. "I'm just an investor," he said. "I just provide cash to the managers of the companies for film production."

"It's relatively easy to develop content for the Chinese market," he said. "However, if we want to get into the international market, in terms of content, it's not that easy. For this we're cooperating with some of the US internationally well-known studios."

Fox film studio co-Chairman Jim Gianopulos told Reuters in September that Wanda was near an agreement with the News Corp unit to co-produce films in China.

China allows up to 34 foreign films to be distributed in local cinemas each year. Fourteen must be in special format, such as IMAX or 3D.


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