Tycoon plans $8 billion Chinese Hollywood

Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin speaks during a press conference after a launching ceremony of Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Wang's Wanda Group is planning to invest 50 billion yuan to build the film and television industry project in east China's Qingdao city. (AP Photo)

Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin speaks during a press conference after a launching ceremony of Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Wang's Wanda Group is planning to invest 50 billion yuan to build the film and television industry project in east China's Qingdao city. (AP Photo)

QINGDAO, China (AP) — China's richest man plans to invest 50 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) to build the country's version of Hollywood in the eastern city of Qingdao.

Wang Jianlin said Sunday that his company, Dalian Wanda Group, will build a massive, state of the art film studio complex in a bid to dominate China's rapidly growing movie market.

The Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis's 20 studios will include a permanent underwater studio and a 10,000 square-meter (108,000 square feet) lot that Wang said would be the world's biggest. The facility will also include an Imax research and development center, cinemas and China's biggest film and celebrity wax museums. The first phase is planned to open in June 2016 and it will be fully operational by June 2017.

The company has signed a preliminary deal with "a number of global film and television giants and talent agencies" to shoot about 30 foreign films a year. It did not name the companies.

Wang also hopes to attract more than 50 Chinese production companies to make at least 100 domestic films and TV shows a year.

Dalian Wanda, which operates cinemas, hotels and department stores in China, last year bought the U.S. cinema chain AMC for $2.6 billion.

The tycoon unveiled his Qingdao plans with a glitzy red carpet event featuring Hollywood celebrities that underlined his outsized ambitions for China's entertainment industry. Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and Catherine Zeta-Jones rubbed elbows with Chinese stars including Zhang Ziyi, Jet Li and Tony Leung at the event in Qingdao.

In an interview, Wang boasted of his plans to expand in China's movie market, which overtook Japan to become the world's second biggest after ticket sales rose 36 percent last year to $2.7 billion.

"There's no single company in the whole world that has a big-scale production base, and at the same time has screening and distribution channels. Wanda Group is the first one in the world," Wang said. "As long as we build the film production park and produce better content, we'll certainly be the most successful company in this industry."

China's government allows only 34 foreign films per year for national distribution. At least 14 of them must be made in 3-D or for the big-screen Imax format.

Wang was named China's richest person earlier this month with a fortune of $22 billion by the Hurun Report, which follows China's wealthy. Forbes also said Wang rose to the top spot on its China rich list, with his estimated fortune rising to $14 billion.

_________

Chan reported from Hong Kong.
Associated Press
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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