China being one of GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s big talking points this election cycle, what better time for 60 Minutes to take its first look at the film market that in February, brought in more than $1 billion in box office for the first time ever, beating the U.S. and Canada. The burgeoning Chinese industry already is causing a “mass hysteria” in the country and, with a population of 1.3 billion, it’s on track to become the biggest movie market as early as next year, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams in her first 60 Minutes report this Sunday, “Rising In The East.” (Deadline began reporting that forecast in 2015)
In the segment, Dennis Wang, described as chairman of one of China’s largest studios, boasts he will be using Hollywood directors and stars to make English-language movies and compete with Hollywood in the next year or two, and will be “doing it really well” in five. His brother James Wang enthuses that the troubled Chinese economy is good news for their business because, “when times are bad, people go to the movies and feel happy and it doesn’t cost them much money.”
The segment also offers a glimpse of the massive Hengdian World Studios, which Williams says is the brainchild of Xu Wenrong, a “one-time farmer who realized his fields were fertile ground for a new industry.” Williams explained to Deadline he already was a successful businessman, in electronics and in “property development as well…all the wealthy are in property development in China.” (Notably, Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin, who bought AMC Entertainment for $2.6B in 2012 and, earlier this month gained U.S. regulatory approval for its $3.5B purchase of Legendary Entertainment, is building what’s purported to be the world’s largest studio complex, in Qingdao, Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione has reported.)
“He’s an amazing character,” Williams said of Xu, describing his studio-building strategy, in film terms: “Build it and they will come… It worked.”
China produces about 600 films a year for a domestic audience growing so fast that 22 new screens open every day, Williams says in the report. They’re going up largely in the biggest cities, on the coast, and in the “second tier” cities with 10 million inhabitants further into the country’s interior, she told Deadline. “When you talk to the moguls, they’re excited about” the yet-to-be-fully-mined movie-going audiences in “third and fourth tier” cites where screens are still going up, she added.