Dalian Wanda buys AMC movie exhibitor
China's largest entertainment group, Dalian Wanda, agreed to acquire United States movie exhibitor AMC Entertainment for US$2.6 billion including debt, becoming the world's largest owner of cinemas.
Dalian Wanda runs 86 cinemas, with a total of 730 screens, is involved in stage shows and produces and distributes films on the mainland.
'This acquisition will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theatres and technology that enhance the movie-going experience for audiences in the world's two largest movie markets,' said Wang Jianlin, Wanda's chairman.
Zhou Liming, a film critic who lived in the US for 18 years and is now based in Beijing, doubted that the acquisition would have a concrete impact on China's film industry in the short term.
'It doesn't mean a lot more Chinese films will be shown in the US,' Zhou said.
He said the movie industry involved the making, distribution and screening of films.
'Wanda has been working in cinemas for many years in China and is very experienced, and it is wise to expand into the North American market in that sector, as the cultural difference is the smallest along the industry chain,' he said.
Zhou said what consumers care about was the movie and the service, not who owns the cinema.
Gao Jun, former deputy general manager of Beijing-based cinema management company New Film Association, said: 'The deal may encourage more Chinese cinema operators and film production companies to follow in its footsteps.'
Wang Ran, chief executive of China eCapital, a Beijing-based investment bank, said on his weibo: 'More American companies will come to China looking for buyers.'
Wanda's deal is the largest purchase of a US company by a Chinese firm, Bloomberg figures show. The private conglomerate, one of the mainland's largest property developers, was looking to buy a European cinema operator as well, Wang said.
Mainland box office sales jumped 29 per cent last year to 13.1 billion yuan (HK$16 billion), according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, making it the third-largest market for movies after the US and Japan.
Meanwhile, the North American market is saturated, and box office sales have been falling, experts say.
Gao said this could be one reason Wanda's acquisition was not thwarted by government departments, like those of some Chinese technology companies. 'It is also because the cultural nature of the deal is not very political,' Gao said.
Wanda will now wholly own AMC Entertainment, which operates 346 theatres with 5,034 screens, mostly in the US and Canada.
Wanda said it intended to invest up to an additional US$500 million in AMC over time, to reduce debt and improve AMC's cinemas.
AMC's headquarters would remain in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and day-to-day operations, including film programming, would remain unchanged, Wanda said.