Wanda, the Chinese property and entertainment group, is harboring global ambitions for its film business – and it has the means to get there.
“We aim to be the biggest company in the Chinese film industry and for the Chinese industry to obtain its correct place in the world,” said Jerry Ye, VP of Wanda Culture Industry Group.
Its upcoming “The Ghouls,” a Chinese tomb-raider movie directed by Wuershan (“Painted Skin 2”), is getting a full-scale Cannes sendoff that represents only the beginning of a six-month marketing effort ahead of its prime, December release in China.
“We will begin promotion in the U.S. next month,” said Ye. It can do that because Wanda owns AMC Entertainment, the second-largest U.S. cinema chain, and is able to leverage that even before a North American distributor comes on board.
IM Global, handling international sales of the movie, says that Wanda is looking to attach a studio or mini-major distributor for the Stateside release and that it is aiming for a day-and-date outing that matches the U.S. slot to the Chinese outing. “You can afford to think that way when you own AMC,” said IM Global’s Stuart Ford.
Further exhibition expansion in other markets seems a certainty. Asked whether further acquisitions of theater chains are likely, Ye told Variety: “Of course!”
The company’s name has been linked to possible purchases of Hollywood properties including Lionsgate, MGM and DreamWorks Animation, but Ye is careful not to commit the company to any specific deal.
“Nothing is impossible for Wanda,” said Ye. “In this industry the most important thing is the talent. That could mean acquisition, or corporate cooperation, or to do things from scratch. I don’t know which route we will choose, but the ambition remains the same.”
“Ghouls” has a production budget of $40 million but is expected to see its gross in China alone exceed $200 million. “’Ghouls’ has a fantastic director, a sexy cast, the backing of the three biggest film companies in China, and the best possible release date. All the factors are there. It will definitely set a new box office record,” said Ye.
Ye said that the film is based on only some of the series of eight “Ghost Blows Out the Light” books and that he is already considering a movie sequel, as well as transformation of the concept into attractions that are part of its growing theme park empire. Wanda opened the world’s first indoor theme park in Wuhan in December, and is building a network of smaller parks around the country alongside its shopping malls.
In early deals the film has been sold within Asia to Philippines (MVP), Singapore (Shaw), Indonesia (Cinemaxx), Vietnam (BHD) and Thailand (International Production Associates ). It was also sold to CMC for Taiwan, where the film has obtained one of only 10 available quota slots for mainland Chinese movies.