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Wang Jianlin

Wanda courts Hollywood to its US$8bn ‘Movie Metropolis’ studio in Qingdao

Wanda Group chairman unveils US$150 million annual rebate programme for ‘qualifying productions’ at Qingdao studio scheduled to open August 2018

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 8:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 10:57pm

China’s richest man Wang Jianlin has unveiled an incentive programme to attract foreign filmmakers to his new studio complex in Qingdao, as part of efforts to foster a major production hub that will help feed China’s growing appetite for cinema entertainment.

Wanda Group, the flagship of Wang’s entertainment, real estate and finance conglomerate, will provide up to a 40 per cent rebate towards production costs at Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis.

The rebate programme, valued at US$150 million a year, will be jointly funded by Wanda and the Qingdao municipal government.

The rebates will be extended to “qualifying productions” to help cover production costs ranging from

stage rental and set construction to equipment rental and accommodation. Post production costs are also eligible to qualify for the rebate.

The US$8.2 billion Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis will feature 30 sound stages, including an underwater stage and the world’s largest indoor stage due for completion in August 2018. The studio will form part of a mixed-use facility that will include amenities ranging from a convention centre to hotels. The idea is to create a self contained community that will attract foreign filmmakers and their families.

Wanda Group, the flagship of Wang’s entertainment, real estate and finance conglomerate, will provide as much as a 40 per cent rebate for some production costs at Movie Metropolis.

The rebate programme, valued at US$150 million a year, will also be funded the Qingdao municipal government. Production expenditures including backlot and stage rental, set construction, equipment rental, accommodations, transportation, post production are eligible to qualify for the rebate.

Wang, speaking at a gala ceremony in Los Angeles on Monday, tried to pacify his audience that the “Hollywood of China” plan is not going to compromise US jobs.

“Some worry that the Qingdao programme will cost Hollywood jobs. That’s wrong. On the contrary it will increase Hollywood jobs,” Wang said.

The high-profile event was attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, as well as executives from major Hollywood studios.

“First, even if crew members didn’t go to the Qingdao project, they will go to affordable places like UK, Australia and Malaysia. Second, the Qingdao project will require a massive number of technical and management talents from Hollywood.”

Wang forecast China’s box-office receipts will grow 15 per cent annually for the next 10 years, overtaking North American in market size by 2018. By 2026, he said, China’s market could hit US$30 billion, accounting for 40 to 50 per cent of global box office receipts.

Wanda said Legendary Entertainment will shoot Pacific Rim 2 and Godzilla 2 at Wanda studio, an international studio within the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Arclight Films and Wanda’s own Legendary Entertainment have signed on to use the Qingdao facility. Eleven major film productions will be shot there in the following three years, according to Wanda.

The Movie Metropolis studio is being built on a 408-acre site. Apart from the studio, the mix-use facility will include shopping malls, resort hotels, four indoor theme parks, a marina, international schools and a hospital.

“The Qingdao project showcased the staple of Wanda’s business model. It is adept at forging alliances with local governments who are eager to foster new growth engines besides real estate. The intimate relation enabled Wanda to acquire massive land, usually at the outskirt of the city, at prices significantly lower than market value, and quickly recover the cost by selling nearby properties,” said Shen Xiaoqing, an analyst with industry consultancy CRIC.

The latest move by Wang Jianlin is part of Wanda’s much more ambitious plan to enter the US entertainment industry. Last month Wanda forged a partnership with Sony Pictures in which it will market Sony films and co-finance upcoming movie releases of Sony Corp’s film unit in China.

In coming days Wanda may finalise a deal to buy Dick Clark Productions, the company that runs the Golden Globe Awards and Miss America pageants, according to Variety.

However, the timing of the expansion coincides with a dramatic cooling in China’s cinema market. Cinema box-office receipts grew 13 per cent in the first eight months, according to industry consultancy Entgroup , compared to 48 per cent growth for the whole year in 2015. Meanwhile, a group of US lawmakers have recently called for closer scrutiny of mainland Chinese investment in the US entertainment industry.