Paul Wilson: Today AMC, Tomorrow Hollywood?

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Kate Beckinsale

No, your well-coiffed Scribe said it was just the dipping of billionaire Wang Jianlin‘s big Chinese toe in the water to test the temperatures.

I then predicted the ultimate move of AMC’s headquarters from their new, posh, Leawood digs to the Left Coast; I think you’ll see that in less than 3 years.

And now the next shoe drops as China’s richest man, the mastermind behind the $2.6 billion acquisition of  AMC,  announces plans to develop the Oriental Movie Metropolis, complete with 20 sound stages, the world’s first underwater studio, a convention and exhibition complex, a shopping mall with an indoor amusement park and seven resort hotels covering two square miles of land.

And my favorite part; it will house a yacht club with 300 berths so the mega stars can cruise to the front door. Grand opening is set for 2017. Oh, and a full time exotic car museum.

“The Oriental Movie Metropolis is a major step in China’s strategy to become a global cultural powerhouse,” Wang said as he was surrounded by Hollywood stars Kate Beckinsale,  John Travolta, Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Catherine Zeta-Jones, sans estranged husband Michael Douglas who was busy winning a best actor Emmy award.

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda GroupAny guesses who the stars will be in Wang’s first productions?

Possibly the ones who flew half way around the world for the grand announcement?

Wang, 58, the chairman of the Beijing-based property developer Dalian Wanda Group, called the studio the most expensive film industry investment of all time; an “unprecedented project that will create history.”

It will cost up to 30bn Yuan (£3bn). $1 = 6.12 Yuan – hey, you do the math – it’s a LOT of dough.

So who is this man?

Wang grew up poor and hungry during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution and spent 17 years in the People’s Liberation Army. He later became the first Chinese citizen to own a private jet and was named by Forbes as China’s richest man with personal wealth of $14 billion

His company is privately held and best known for its prime properties throughout China, including 72 Wanda Plaza shopping centers, along with 40 five-star hotels. The company also owns 6,000 movie screens, 62 department stores and 68 karaoke centers. Offshore hotel investment is a major focus of the company’s strategy.

“In the next eight to ten years, we will build high-end hotels in major cities around the world,” Wang said.

This guy doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet; he’s building luxury hotels in New York and London and last week, donated £12m to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, that will name a new film library in his honor.

And he’s not done, telling Reuters earlier this month that he could afford to spend as much as $5 billion every year to buy foreign firms or assets.

Imagine that, a huge donation to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. What on earth could his motivation be there? Someone help me, I’m drawing a blank.

Always image conscious, the Chinese government has pumped billions in subsidies into the arts, hoping that domestic films can improve how they are viewed abroad. China’s film industry has grown by a factor of 10 since 2002, with an average of nine new screens opening in the country every day. It still screens a vast majority of its movies from the US, but when the draconian censors are done, there’s little left to watch with some movies having in excess of 45 minutes removed from their length.

“No matter how much cash is in the system, China will not outshine Hollywood until its film-makers are given more creative space,” and censorship requirements are at least modified. They will never likely be removed. He views his mission to be not only the development of Wanda’s entertainment biz, but also an important step for building China’s cultural brand.

8954764In an interview at Sunday’s ceremony, Wang said he expected Wanda Group revenue to increase to $30 billion this year, and to continue to increase by $10 billion every year to $100 billion by 2020.

Here’s the big question; who’s going to win the cultural and censorship battle, the Chinese government trying to hold firm to past standards or the big man on campus with all the money?

Who wins? Place your bets and I’ll allow a teaser; the powers that be or the tail that’s clearly going to try to wag the dog?

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4 Responses to Paul Wilson: Today AMC, Tomorrow Hollywood?

  1. the dude says:

    With that kind of money if the authorities don’t bend to what he wants he could just take his toys elsewhere and tell them to pound sand. And like we talked wilsun AMC HQ moves in less than 5 years is my prediction.

  2. expat says:

    This is just froth on the Chinese credit bubble. When that bursts this guy and others like him are likely to find the Chinese government’s mobile execution van (yes they have one) parked outside their homes. Basically they are leveraged to the hilt on inflated asset prices. One wonders what will happen to AMC when this guy finally gets marked to market.

  3. Balbonis Moleskine says:

    The PRC government is also manipulating their growth data.

    The rest of the world uses construction SALES when measuring GDP growth. They use construction STARTS.

    That in a nutshell is why there are entire ghost cities in the PRC.

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