Hollywood and the wider film industry are not immune to the realities of the world’s current economic landscape, so if it’s not exactly heartening, it’s no surprise that Chinese dough will be increasingly funding American films. What might surprise you is that now the same will be true of exhibition, as a Chinese firm called the Dalian Wanda Group has acquired AMC, making themselves the world’s largest theatre chain.

What makes the disparity in economic success so clear is that the Wanda group owns a mere 86 theatres in China, but makes billions from its other robust enterprises (commercial real-estate and such), allowing it to buy the 346-theatre-operating AMC, formerly the 2nd largest American theater chain behind Regal. Supposedly operations and programming of the American company will go unchanged, which is easy enough to believe as the company has many interests. Take a look at how they describe themselves…

Dalian Wanda Group was founded in 1988 and operates in five major industries including Commercial Properties, Luxury Hotels, Tourism Investment, Cultural Industry, and Department Store Chain. The company has assets of 31 billion dollars and an annual income of 17 billion dollars, and pays 2.6 billion dollars in taxes. The company has already opened 49 Wanda Plazas, 28 five-star hotels, 730 cinema screens, 40 department stores and 45 all inclusive karaoke centers throughout the country. By 2015, the company aims to increase its assets to 48 billion dollars and income to 32 billion dollars, and pays 4.8 billion dollars in taxes, becoming a world-class enterprise.

Culture shock! I don’t think you’d ever read an American company describing themselves in such terms as “taxes paid.”

AMC has a bad rep among West Coast film geeks it seems, but I’ve been watching movies in AMCs my entire life and typically enjoy great experiences in their facilities (as far as conglomerate multiplexes go- they can’t all be Drafthouses). They’ve been great about updating their screens with 4k projectors rather than getting stuck in the first-generation digital projectors (which definitely blow), and the company has at least paid the correct lip-service to the idea of maintaining the theatrical experience. This was demonstrated at this year’s CinemaCon when, at a Theatre Owners panel, the Regal CEO openly considered the idea of explicitly allowing texting during movie screenings, while word from AMC’s rep was that they would not be exploring such options and attempting to push harder against phone usage.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies are starting to dig in to the production side as well, opening their purses to help co-fund the expensive blockbusters of Hollywood. Rian Johnson’s Looper is largely a Chinese-funded production (and experience that Johnson is apparently pleased with), while Marvel has teamed up with a Chinese company to produce the surefire hit, Iron Man 3. I’d expect more such arrangement announced throughout this year.

It can be a touchy subject trying to determine what this trend means and if it’s good or bad, but it’s definitely a reality and something you’ll see more of. Hilarious that the common line in the 80s was that “the Japanese will own us all in twenty years” and now here we are.

Got thoughts? You know where to put them…

Source | CNN