A Chinese Company Offers a Carrot to Hollywood
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate that is emerging — controversially — as a superpower in the entertainment business, sat in an opulent armchair at the Peninsula Hotel here on Sunday and discussed his business ventures with a casual efficiency.
His response to criticism from a member of Congress that Wanda, after a spectacular $8 billion shopping spree in Hollywood, is a propaganda threat and should be subject to more Justice Department scrutiny? It is “not like we are invading,” Mr. Wang said, contending that Wanda’s goal involves “helping” American film companies “to get more market share in the emerging movies market that is China.” (And, of course, making money for Wanda along the way.)
Mr. Wang, visiting California to unveil sizable financial incentives aimed at wooing American productions to Wanda’s new $5 billion studio complex in China, went on to call himself an “angel” investor. He noted that Wanda had purchased struggling companies like AMC Theaters and Legendary Entertainment — “the best companies would not sell to us” — and strengthened them. AMC’s stock price, for instance, has risen 64 percent since Wanda bought it for $2.6 billion in 2012.
王健林来到加利福尼亚州是为了推介多项财务激励措施，将美国的影视制作吸引到万达在中国投资50亿美元新建的影视产业园。王健林继续自称“天使”投资人。他指出，万达收购了境况艰难的公司，如AMC电影院(AMC Theaters)和传奇影业(Legendary Entertainment)——“最好的公司是不会卖给我们的”——并增强了它们的实力。比如，自2012年被万达以26亿美元的价格收购后，AMC的股价上涨了64%。
Mr. Wang, who noted that Wanda was focused on entertainment “profit” 14 times during a 40-minute interview, said storytelling decisions by American studios in relation to China, with or without Wanda ownership, were about maximizing returns at the fast-growing Chinese box office.
“More Chinese elements mean more Chinese profits,” he said.
Mr. Wang arrived by private jet over the weekend to wrap up Wanda’s latest acquisition — the company is buying Dick Clark Productions for about $1 billion — and dangle an enormous carrot in front of Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal and Walt Disney. Wanda and the Qingdao municipal government have established a major incentive program to lure movie and TV production to the 408-acre Qingdao Movie Metropolis.
王健林周末乘坐私人飞机来到这里，以完成万达最新的一笔收购——该公司正在以大约10亿美元的价格收购迪克·克拉克制作公司(Dick Clark Productions)——并对华纳兄弟(Warner Bros.)、20世纪福克斯公司(20th Century Fox)、派拉蒙(Paramount)、环球(Universal)和华特迪士尼(Walt Disney)施以诱惑。为了吸引影视制作业务进入占地408英亩（约合1.7平方公里）的青岛东方影都，万达和青岛市政府制定了一个大型激励计划。
Billed as an effort to “bridge the entertainment capitals of the world,” the program will provide a 40 percent rebate on certain production spending in Qingdao, which is about 450 miles north of Shanghai and is the site of Wanda Studios, still under construction. Scheduled to fully open in 2018, Wanda Studios will feature 30 advanced soundstages, including the world’s largest at over 107,000 square feet; an underwater stage; and a 221-acre back lot.
The rebate on each film or television production will be limited to $18 million. The total amount available to disperse will be $150 million annually. There will be three classifications of rebate productions, according to Wanda, and only one of those would require Chinese cultural elements, Chinese actors and Chinese investors — films classified by the Chinese government as co-productions that are not subject to import limits.
Applications will be evaluated by a 10-person committee of government officials and Wanda executives, a Wanda spokeswoman said.
The incentives plan was to be announced on Monday by Mr. Wang; Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles; Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and Jack Gao, the head of Wanda’s Cultural Industry Group. A private dinner for 100 studio executives and agency chiefs was planned, with performances from acrobats, magicians and a Chinese pop star.
该激励计划将于周一由王健林、洛杉矶市长埃里克·加希提(Eric Garcetti)、美国电影艺术与科学学院(The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)主席谢丽尔·布恩·艾萨克斯(Cheryl Boone Isaacs)和万达文化产业集团负责人高群耀共同宣布。按计划还有一场面向100位制作公司高管和机构负责人的私人晚宴，现场将有杂技演员、魔术师和一名中国流行歌手的表演。
Mr. Wang, a spry former military officer who is said to be China’s richest man, said he hoped that an additional $3 billion in Qingdao amenities — “international hospitals, international schools, yacht clubs, hotels, shopping” — would make American stars and marquee directors more willing to spend months at a time working there. “Like going on a vacation” is how he described it.
He added that the incentives were not just about busying Wanda Studios and increasing the supply of movies to Wanda’s theaters, both in China, where it controls 3,056 screens, and elsewhere.
“Am I a fool? Of course not,” he said, with a laugh, before alluding to Wanda’s vast real estate division. “Because I attract so many people, that place will become very popular and famous. And the value of the land there will increase. And I can sell more houses.”
If successful, the rebates could shift the global movie incentives game, in which Hollywood has moved production to locales like Canada, Romania and New Zealand. Legendary Entertainment has plans to film at least two movies under the program, including a sequel to “Pacific Rim.”
Mr. Wang said that Wanda intended to control 20 percent of the world’s movie theater seats by 2020. It currently has about 13 percent, including those run in Europe by the Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group, which Wanda bought for $650 million.
王健林说，万达计划到2020年控制全球20%的电影院座位。它目前控制着大约13%，其中包括它斥资6.5亿美元买下的欧迪恩和UCI影院集团(Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group)在欧洲所掌控的那些座位。
By 2020, Wanda aims to have annual revenue of $100 billion and net profits of $10 billion. With its real estate growth slowing, Wanda is also moving into sports, It recently paid $1.2 billion for Infront Sports and Media, a sports marketing company, and tourist destinations, including a $3.5 billion entertainment, shopping and hotel complex outside Paris.
万达的目标是，到2020年，实现年收入1000亿美元，净利润100亿美元。由于其房地产业务增长放缓，万达目前在向体育行业进军，最近花12亿美元收购了体育营销公司盈方体育传媒(Infront Sports & Media)；此外它还涉足旅游目的地，其中包括巴黎郊外一个耗资35亿美元的娱乐、购物和酒店综合体。
“Cash flow for real estate in China is not stable in the long term,” he said. Wanda remains interested in buying more Hollywood companies as it seeks growth, including a major studio, he added. “If it is a very good company,” he said, there will be “no ceiling” for the price offered.
As Wanda pushes deeper into filmed entertainment, the company plans to build a $1.2 billion headquarters in Beverly Hills “to aid in China’s entry into Hollywood’s film industry and generally promote Chinese culture abroad,” Wanda said in a news release.
But it is clear that Mr. Wang, who spoke to The New York Times with the assistance of an interpreter, has gotten the message that a bit less bombast might help smooth Wanda’s forward march.
Take his approach to Disney. In the spring, as Disney was opening its first theme park resort on the Chinese mainland, the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland, Mr. Wang went on the attack. “The frenzy of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the era of blindly following them have passed,” Mr. Wang said on state television in May. At the time, Disney called his remarks “patently absurd.”
On Sunday, however, Mr. Wang struck a friendly tone. “We respect Disney,” he said. “Competition is unavoidable,” he added, noting that Wanda has five theme-park-style properties open in China and seven more under construction. “But I respect Disney very much.”
Mr. Wang said he had personally visited every Disney resort in the world, with the exception of the Shanghai outpost.
In person, Mr. Wang came across as a disciplined executive — he arrived at exactly 8:59 a.m. for a 9 a.m. appointment and stayed exactly one hour — who cared only about making money and not tinkering with scripts. He said that he had not seen any videotape from “The Great Wall,” a coming $150 million Legendary Entertainment film starring Matt Damon.
面对面时，王健林给人的印象是一个自律的企业高管——约好9点见面，他恰好在8点59分抵达，而且刚好停留了一个小时——他真正在意的是赚钱，而非修改剧本。他说自己还没看过来自《长城》(The Great Wall)的任何片段。这部即将上映的电影由传奇影业出品，耗资1.5亿美元，主演为马特·达蒙(Matt Damon)。
He “is not quite into the technical details like that, because the entire movie sector in Wanda accounts for only one-eighth or one-tenth of the revenue,” he said. Wanda’s culture division, which includes the theme parks, domestic movie theaters and sports holdings, made a profit of 43.9 million Chinese renminbi, or $6.5 million, in the first half of 2015, against assets of about $11 billion, according to a Wanda stock prospectus.
The more hands-off that Mr. Wang can appear, of course, the better Wanda will fare among those calling for heightened scrutiny of its entertainment dealings. But all that matters to Hollywood is Wanda’s money.
By that measure, Qingdao applications should already be rolling in.