“Going Hollywood” . . . by Buying It

On a recent trip to China, Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple observed that American films are creating a whole new generation of Chinese filmmakers who aspire to “make it” in Hollywood. Dan says, “If I wasn’t sure before, I am convinced now that America’s most influential export is American films.”

Wang Jianlin, China’s wealthiest executive, recognizes the scope of Hollywood’s power and influence and is aggressively expanding into the U.S. film industry through his media conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group. According to The Washington Times (August 31, 2016), his desire is . . . “to acquire one of the six major Hollywood studios” and he has vowed “to change the world where rules are set by foreigners.”

With more Chinese movie theaters than any other company, Wanda is now focusing on global expansion. The Times noted, “In 2012, [Wanda] bought AMC Theatres, which recently announced a deal to acquire Britain’s Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and is trying to scoop up Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas.” And in November 2016, Wanda purchased Dick Clark Productions.

Wang’s ambitious plans are unnerving to some lawmakers. Increasing control and power over the content and distribution of American movies by any company—particularly one closely aligned with the Chinese government—has the potential to shift the balance of power in global entertainment and eclipse America as the world’s largest movie market.

The Times states, “Owning a large portion of the world’s theater business gives Wanda a massive influence over the global film industry and could give it leverage in negotiations with studios over sharing box office revenue. The company has said it wants to control 20% of global box office ticket sales by 2020.”

Despite concerns about China’s growing power in the entertainment industry, The Times found that filmmakers they interviewed were skeptical about China using movies for propaganda—especially if it gets in the way of making money.

“If they do that, people will stop watching the movies,” said John Davis, a film and TV producer for Fox and Sony. “Chinese companies are all driven by the profit motive.”