LOS ANGELES — The entire Hollywood press corps turned up. So did dozens of Chinese executives from the Beijing-based Dalian Wanda Group, some of whom were introduced as “special dignitaries.” Studio executives? Check. Leaders from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Grinning from the front row.
But why were there also four women in gold evening gowns serving as ushers and M. C.’s? And why was the “Star Wars” score used as part of the Monday affair, which was held to promote Wanda’s $5 billion studio complex in Qingdao as a home away from home for Hollywood?
The answer seemed to be: because Wanda wanted it that way.
And, at least for eager Hollywood executives hoping to tap into the fast-growing Chinese box office, that was answer enough. As the Motion Picture Association of America’s chief executive, Christopher J. Dodd, said in a video infomercial for the Qingdao complex that played as part of the event, “Any time an audience grows, everyone benefits.”
The 5 p.m. presentation, held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, began with remarks by Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the academy, an institution dedicated in part to celebrating artistic freedom.
“We have so much in common,” Ms. Boone Isaacs said of the Chinese and American film industries. “Art. Creativity. Conscience. Conviction. Just telling your story.”
Hollywood, of course, has been frustrated that Chinese censors restrict the flow of American films into China; only a few dozen foreign films are allowed to be exhibited annually. But Ms. Boone Isaacs kept it gauzy. “This art form, like an old-fashioned carousel, is at its best when it takes us around the world,” she said of cinema.
Next up: Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, who has made bolstering the movie industry a priority of his administration. Specifically, he has criticized the practice of studios moving production to other states and countries to take advantage of tax incentives and rebates. That, of course, is exactly the kind of runaway production funding that Wanda announced at Monday’s event.
Mr. Garcetti tried to have it both ways. After noting that efforts to bring back production have borne fruit, he said, “We also are not a place that closes in.” He added, “We will be strong about promoting Los Angeles as a place to film, but we will also be proud to make those international links that are core to our businesses growing.” With that, Mr. Garcetti introduced Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s chairman.
For his part, Mr. Wang spent most of his speech (delivered in Mandarin, with translation provided to the audience via headphones) highlighting the spectacular growth of the Chinese box office. Within a decade, he noted, China will not only far surpass the United States as a movie marketplace, it will control more than 40 percent of global ticket sales.
He got a round of applause when he said that American studios needed to “improve the quality” of their movies. “In the recent few years, perhaps because Hollywood movies are trying to minimize their risk, there are less original movies,” he said. After criticizing Hollywood’s over-reliance on special effects, he added, “Now that Chinese audiences are smarter, they do not so easily become happy.”
It was almost a wrap. But first came more details about the 40 percent rebate Wanda will offer studios for filming at its still-under-construction “movie metropolis” in Qingdao. Invited to the stage were executives from studios that had already signed up, including Lionsgate, Wanda-owned Legendary Entertainment, Arclight Films and Kylin Pictures.
As one of the women in gold gowns said in closing, “It’s very exciting!”
© Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/business/international/dalian-wanda-hollywood-china.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
All rights are reserved and belongs to a source media.