Asia Briefing: Hollywood blesses China’s new movie metropolis
Actress Nicole Kidman shakes hands with fans at a red carpet event promoting Wanda Group’s Oriental Movie Metropolis project in Qingdao, Shandong province recently
China’s richest tycoon, Wang Jianlin, of the real estate colossus Dalian Wanda Group, has been a busy man in the past few weeks as he works on broadening the interests of his company into other areas, such as the entertainment business.
Last week, he lured Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, John Travolta and various Hollywood types to the coastal town of Qingdao where he unveiled a €6.15 billion film studio complex which he hopes will be China’s answer to Hollywood.
It was quite a sight to watch the cream of the Hollywood studios gather on what is basically a building site in searing heat to launch what could theoretically be major competition for the US film business.
“My target is for Wanda to be one of the world’s biggest companies in the culture industry; this is why I haven’t retired yet,” said the 59-year-old executive, whose net worth is estimated at nearly €12 billion, at the Qingdao event.
He said he has signed deals with various Hollywood types to have about 30 foreign movies produced there each year – with 100 more local films to be made annually.
The complex will house a 10,000-square-metre film studio, 19 smaller movie production buildings, along with a theme park similar to the Universal Studios theme park.
Add in a permanent car show, an international hospital, hotels and bars, and you have a giant property investment with a cinema element.
In this way it is similar to other investments in China. Golf courses and polo clubs are all basically ways of selling real estate.
Then, just days after that high-profile event, Mr Wang announced that he had signed a deal with the city of Wuxi, just west of Shanghai, to build a €4.37 billion “cultural tourism city” which will compete directly with the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland amusement park.
The Wuxi mega-development is one of 10 planned cultural tourism projects, which the company calls “Wanda Cities”, that the group intends to roll out across China. Harbin, Nanchang, Hefei and Qingdao already have their own Wanda Cities in development. The project, Wuxi Wanda City, will span 296 acres around a small lake.
Across the country, Wanda owns and operates 72 commercial plazas, 38 five-star hotels, more than 6,000 cinema screens, 62 department stores and 68 karaoke outlets.