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China’s Wanda Unveils Global Domination Plans

Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman among those attending AMC Theaters owner's studio launch

HONG KONG — China’s Dalian Wanda Group has unveiled plans to become one of the world’s biggest film companies.

At a glitzy ceremony in the port city of Qingdao, attended by top stars from China and Hollywood as well as senior Hollywood executives, Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin broke ground on a new mega studio. He also revealed alliances with Hollywood studios and announced a new film festival.

His $4.9 billion (RMB 30 billion) Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis will include 20 sound stages, including a 10,000 square meter studio complex, 19 smaller, related facilities and a theme park. It is set to open in 2017.

The 200 hectare Film Industry Park will also include several outdoor lots (in European, Ming & Qing dynasty Chinese and Middle Eastern styles), seven hotels, an indoor theme park, an IMAX research laboratory, a massive film exhibition unit capable of hosting a film festival, a film museum and waxworks, as well as a year-round automobile show and a yacht trading center.

Paying tribute to the financial firepower and ambitions of Wanda were Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Travolta, Kate Beckinsale, Ewan McGregor and Christoph Waltz. A-list Chinese stars included Zhang Ziyi, Jet LiTony Leung, Donnie Yen, Huang Xiaoming and Vicki Zhao. Senior U.S. execs included Weinstein Co. chairman Harvey Weinstein and Lionsgate motion picture bosses Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger.

Wang, recently named by Forbes magazine as China’s richest man with an estimated fortune of $16 billion, said that China will have the world’s largest film industry by 2018. Wanda last year paid $2.6 billion to acquire U.S. cinema chain AMC and last week gave a gift of $20 million to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

The company said that it had struck some 30 agreements with producers and talent agencies including to bring 30 foreign films and 100 local Chinese films per year to the new studio.

Wang said that the Qingdao International Film Festival will be held in the Metropolis’ exhibition area every September from 2016. It will be organized in co-operation with the Academy’s Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was also in attendance, and China Film Group.

China already has some of the world’s largest studio complexes at Hengdian, a few hours outside Shanghai, and one of the most modern at Huairou, outside Beijing. Other studio complexes have been mooted at Tianjin and Wuxi.

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