Lights! Sound! Action! What better way to tap into China’s fun-loving urban consumers than a movie theme park?
So thinks Wang Jianlin, founder of Dalian Wanda real estate group, who has announced he will invest to $8bn in a film park the size of 700 football pitches in the east coast city of Qingdao.
Mr Wang, reportedly China’s richest man, also has growing international ambitions. Dalian Wanda bought the US theater operator AMC Entertainment last year for $2.6bn, and it has announced plans to build a luxury hotel in London, its first outside China.
This week, Spanish media were buzzing with the prospect that Dalian Wanda might also unveil projects in Spain, whose economy has been hard hit by a property crash and huge unemployment.
According to Cinco Días, Mr Wang has people in Spain seeking out interesting projects, which will likely center on the hotel and leisure sectors, which are the areas that most foreigners associate with Spain. So much for Spain’s new economy then.
Dalian Wanda is the largest owner of cinemas in China and also owns hotels.
China is the second-biggest movie market in the world after the US and the number of theaters could reach almost 5,000 by the end of the year.
Despite its apparent attractions, the Financial Times’ Lex column cautions that the Chinese movie industry is virtually a closed set as far as private industry is concerned.
Censorship, quotas for foreign movies and the dull hand of state bureaucracy are just some of the obstacles facing would-be new entrants.
It is tough for private investors to make money in the Chinese movie industry, which presumably is why Dalian Wanda is expanding overseas.