LAT: Wanda Group to Beckon Hollywood Filmmakers to China with 40% Rebate
News story originally published at LATimes.com
By Ryan Faughnder
China’s richest man is coming to Los Angeles on a mission to lure major film productions to his home country.
Wang Jianlin, the billionaire chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, is expected to unveil plans to offer a 40% production rebate for movies and television shows that shoot at his new “movie metropolis” in the city of Qingdao.
The Chinese real estate and media tycoon plans to announce the program during a gala event Monday evening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Wang’s offer would mark his latest maneuver to become a global entertainment industry power-player. Wanda has spent billions of dollars in recent years scooping up movie and TV business assets, including No. 2 U.S. theater chain AMC Entertainment and Burbank production company Legendary Entertainment.
The new incentives are part of a plan to boost production activity at Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a sprawling facility Wang announced in 2013 with ambitions of turning it into the “Hollywood of China.”
The $8.2-billion project, with a projected 30 sound stages, was announced at a star-studded event that drew studio executives, talent agents and included big names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman and Harvey Weinstein.
But while China has quickly become the second-biggest film market in terms of box-office sales, it has not yet become a hub for U.S. film productions. Wanda is looking to change that.
A 40% discount would easily place it among the most generous offers to filmmakers and studios looking to lower costs abroad. States including Georgia and Louisiana have implemented major incentives to draw Hollywood productions out of the Los Angeles area, as have countries such as Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
Monday night at LACMA’s Bing Theater, Wang is expected to name some of the film projects set to shoot at the new studio. The first U.S. production planned to film there is Legendary’s “Pacific Rim: Maelstrom,” the sequel to the 2013 Guillermo del Toro film that did poorly at the U.S. box office but scored strong business in China. Wanda paid $3.5 billion for Legendary earlier this year.
The lucrative subsidy, first reported by Variety, will be funded by Qingdao governments and Wanda.
Wang’s visit to Los Angeles has been greatly anticipated amid a flurry of deals and acquisitions in progress. Wanda last month announced a pact to co-finance a handful of major Sony Pictures movies, and is in talks to buy Golden Globe Awards producer Dick Clark Productions. He has also stated his goal to eventually buy a major U.S. movie studio.
The aggressive moves by Wang, who is worth an estimated $32.5 billion and has ties to the communist Chinese government, has attracted scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers concerned about the country’s potential influence on American media companies.
Besides serving as a supersized moviemaking complex, the development also includes a theme park, hotels and space for an annual film festival.