China’s richest man is having a Hollywood moment.
Wang Jianlin is getting the Oscar buzz by virtue of his association with Jake Gyllenhaal who is being touted for an Academy award for the R-rated Southpaw movie.
Wang’s Wanda Pictures financed the movie, a first for a Chinese company.
Wang owns the second largest US cinema chain and is building the world’s biggest studio-plus-theme park on China’s eastern coast.
Last year, Wanda bought land in Beverly Hills, calling the US$1.2 billion complex it plans to erect there its “first important step into Hollywood”, according to Bloomberg.
Wanda’s role as financier for Southpaw puts it streets ahead of Chinese rivals including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. that are staking their Hollywood claims with investments and deals but haven’t yet carried the full freight of a US film.
The partnership with the award-winning Weinstein studio has moved Wanda closer to becoming “a complete international entertainment company”, said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Jiaflix Enterprises, which helps market and distribute films in China.
Southpaw might not be a big movie, with forecast sales of about US$45 million in tickets during its US run, but it has generated media attention since studio co-chairman Harvey Weinstein showed a clip at the Cannes Film Festival.
The movie, which premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival, cost more than US$25 million to make, with Wanda Pictures picking that up and the Weinstein studio covering US$35 million in marketing expenses.
Alibaba, Tencent, Huayi Brothers Media Corp. and more have been busy doing other deals.
They want stakes in the American entertainment business to gain content for their outlets at home, and for expertise
“The Chinese are looking to the US for know-how in making films with international appeal,” said John Burke, head of the entertainment and media practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
China’s movie market is already the second largest i the world by box office receipts and growing annually by 40 percent, according to the Chinese Film Producers’ Association.
China could overtake the US in cinema ticket sales before 2020.
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