China still hungry for Hollywood - China’s latest business and technology news - SupChina

China still hungry for Hollywood – China’s latest business and technology news

A week ago, we noted the quiet death of the Wanda group’s founder Wang Jianlin’s 王健林 dream of building a Hollywood in China as he sold off much of his fledgling movie empire assets in the country. One might think government squeeze on overseas acquisitions of the “gray rhinos” would discourage Chinese investors from buying Californian film companies, but the deals go on:

  • Wanda still owns American film company Legendary Pictures, bought last year for $3.5 billion, and AMC, America’s largest theater chain, bought in 2012 for $2.6 billion.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that Tang Media Partners, founded two years ago and backed by China Media Capital and internet giant Tencent, “is nearing a deal to buy Open Road Films, a production and distribution studio co-owned by AMC and its rival Regal. The Journal says that Open Road Films’ “track record has been rocky,” but it did win the Oscar for Best Picture for its 2015 release Spotlight.

Back in the Chinese film market itself, the annual “domestic movie protection month” has begun.

  • Although not an explicitly official policy, every year during the summer, Hollywood movies disappear from China’s movie theaters for a few weeks, apparently with the aim of boosting box office receipts for local films.
  • This year, the suspension of Hollywood films coincides with the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, which include the promotion of The Founding of an Army, a high-budget state-backed film.
  • CNBC calls the annual event “Hollywood blackout month” and says that “China is acting blatantly protectionist in an industry that’s hugely important to the U.S.”
  • What’s on Weibo says “the measure is a much-dreaded one on Chinese social media,” as the summer months are the only time many young people can find to go to the movies, and Hollywood films remain immensely popular in China despite the government’s best efforts to recalibrate the cinematic tastes of the nation.

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.