UPDATE, 6 p.m PDT, Sept. 22 — Sony Pictures and the Dalian Wanda Group have confirmed they have closed a deal for a strategic alliance that will include equity co-financing on several Sony high-profile releases in China.
Wanda is expected to take a roughly 10% stake in approximately four films, according to insiders, and will provide “Spider-Man: Homecoming” with marketing support in China. The comic book reboot hits U.S. theaters next July.
“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. Wanda is a dynamic entertainment player led by the visionary chairman Wang Jianlin; we are honored to be in business with them. I am also pleased to be working again with my friend and former colleague Jack Gao,” said Tom Rothman, Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.
The deal, first reported by Deadline, will resemble alliances Paramount has struck with Chinese conglomerates such as Alibaba for tentpole films like “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Star Trek Beyond.”
Wanda is a massive real estate and entertainment conglomerate in China, and owns the country’s largest cinema chain. The deal would give Sony access to promotion to the Chinese audience, a burgeoning film market that is currently the world’s second largest. It would also give Wanda greater entree in Hollywood, where it has recently been on a buying spree, snapping up AMC and Odeon. It’s not a straight equity investment. The alliance calls for marketing support. In the case of “Spider-Man,” Wanda’s contribution will likely be helping with promotion in the Middle Kingdom, provided the film secures regulatory approval. Wanda will invest in other Sony films, but is not expected to have an ownership stake on the latest web-slinger film.
Wanda bought Legendary Entertainment earlier this year and was rumored to be a suitor for a minority stake in Paramount. That opportunity is now off the table, as Paramount’s new management has pulled the plug. But Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s chairman, has made no secret of his interest in ultimately buying one of the major studios.
Spokespeople for Sony and Wanda declined to comment.