China is going to have a notable amount of its land mass (about 5.4m square metres) turned into what might be mistaken for a chunk of Hollywood. The man everyone calls the richest person in China, Jianlin Wang, has taken a 30 billion yuan (about £3 billion) step towards creating a Chinese Hollywood, the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis.
The city of Qingdao used to be known as Tsingtao and had the distinction of being named the most livable city in China as well as being home to the world-famous Tsingtao brewery, built by the Germans in 1903. It’s a city with an interesting history, but Wang’s Movie Metropolis will create a whole new landscape and according to its builders, introduce a whole new era of Chinese film making.
Last year Wang’s company, the Dalian Wanda Group, spent £1.6 billion to purchase US-based AMC Cinemas, and last week Wang donated £12 million to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. The new complex is definitely set to become a major competitor in attracting the film industry on a global basis. More than 1,300 acres will encompass not only sound stages (including the first underwater studio in the world) but also several resort hotels, a yacht club, a hospital and more.
A ground breaking ceremony last Sunday was quite a gala affair, red carpets and all, with several celebrities attending to support this grand undertaking. film stars from both the U.S. and China made their appearances, signifying perhaps that the American and Chinese film industries can wage a friendly war over box office dominance. Wang says that once the Metropolis opens in 2017 it will be hosting an international film festival every year, and serve to consolidate a ‘cultural power’ in the world.
Reports are that Wang’s company has signed preliminary deals to make around 30 foreign films per year with big film and television companies, though no specific names were mentioned. Wang’s goals are ambitious indeed, but he says that with this massive production park there is no reason China can’t soon be number one in the film industry.
The main hitch in all this is the government’s control of the media; only 34 foreign films per year are allowed for distribution. Unless the rules change, Wang may still have some major obstacles to overcome before China can take on the rest of the world.