Daily Mail: Chinese Billionaire Trying to Take Over Hollywood
News story originally published at DailyMail.com
By DailyMail.com Reporter
The Chinese billionaire who bought the AMC theater chain and Legendary Pictures—home of The Dark Knight and Jurassic World—is now looking to get his fingers into Hollywood’s biggest studios.
Over the past 28 years Wang Jianlin, 62, has transformed a debt-ridden Chinese real-estate company into the 44.7billion-revenue conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which has been hungrily snapping up US businesses.
And now Wang has turned his eyes on Hollywood, with an ambitious plan to work his way into all six major studios, The Hollywood Reporter revealed.
Those studios—Columbia, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros and Walt Disney—produce the bulk of Hollywood’s biggest films.
This summer Wang tried to buy a controlling share of Paramount Pictures—which produces the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible movies—but that plan was nixed by Viacom, Paramount’s parent company.
Now he’s taking a different tack by setting up a new multibillion-dollar investment fund, which will pump cash into every one of the big six.
That will establish Wanda’s credentials, and keep a foot in the door for the future.
‘I might as well start from wherever I can, such as through investment with all six,’ he said.
‘We will continue to work on a potential acquisition. But it won’t hurt to start by doing what we can.’
‘Participating via investment seems like a wise choice for the time being.’
Wanda already has investments in the Chinese cinema industry, which is fast-growing but lacks the global appeal and experience of Hollywood, and may take decades to reach the same level.
Wang isn’t willing to wait.
In 2015, the Chinese box office increased by 48.7 per cent to $6.78 billion. That’s more than half America’s Star Wars-boosted $11.13 billion haul for the year.
‘By 2026,’ he estimates, ‘China’s box office will reach $30billion, accounting for 40 to 50 per cent of the global market share.’
Wanda already pumped $2.6billion into a deal to buy AMC Theaters in 2012, snapping up 5,048 screens in 347 theaters across the US and Canada.
Since then, AMC has bought Starplex Cinemas for $175million, Carmike Cinemas for $1.2billion and put in a bid for Europe’s UCI & Odeon Cinema Group for $1.21billion, pending European Commission approval.
Wanda is also in talks to buy Dick Clark Productions, which produces The Golden Globes, Miss America and So You Think You Can Dance, among others, for $1billion.
But it’s the film studios that interest Wang: Wanda bought Legendary Pictures for $3.5billion in January, making it the largest-ever US media acquisition by a Chinese company.
That’s still not big enough for Wang, though, who won’t be happy until he has at least one of the big six.
Wanda’s fast-growing presence in the US film industry has put some on edge.
It’s a particularly thorny issue now, when Hollywood is already altering its movies to suit Chinese audiences, with Chinese product placement in Transformers and Iron Man 3, and the Chinese villains in the remake of Red Dawn being changed to North Koreans.
In August The Center for American Security paid for a billboard on Hollywood’s famous Sunset Strip that read ‘China’s red puppet: AMC Theaters.’
Its website, China Owns Us, accuses Wanda of being puppets of the Chinese government.
And in September, 16 Representatives name-checked Wanda in a joint letter to the US Government Accountability Office, asking for greater scrutiny of Chinese acquisitions.
The letter said there were concerns ‘about China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media.’
In September Wanda entered into a co-production partnership with Sony—the Japanese company that bought out Columbia TriStar in 1989 for $3.5billion in cash.
That deal, Wanda said at the time, would see Wanda ‘(striving) to highlight the China element in the films in which it invests.’
‘The alliance will help strengthen Wanda’s power to influence the global film industry,’ it added, ‘and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment.’
However, Wang softened those remarks, which have caused concern among China-watchers like The Center For American Security, when talking to The Hollywood Reporter.
The conglomerate’s new purchases are, he promised, made with ‘a pure commercial intent.’
And if anyone knows about the power of money, it’s Wang. As a youth he joined Chairman Mao’s People’s Liberation Army, where he ate meager rations and was forced to march for three days straight without sleep.
Now, with billions behind him, he controls his own future—and perhaps Hollywood’s too.