AMC, owner of North America’s second-biggest movie theater chain, has been in on-and-off discussions with Chinese giant Wanda for over a year, The New York Times reports. The talks, which have recently heated up, concern a straight acquisition or the purchase of a “significant stake” in the company, the newspaper says. Along with owning 730 local movie screens (47 are IMAX), Wanda has interests in luxury hotels, tourism investment and department stores and has annual income of $17B. Chairman Wang Jianlin recently said the company intended to increase its investment in cultural industries. AMC has roughly 350 theaters with 5,050 screens and is currently held by a group of investment firms including Apollo, JPMorgan, Bain Capital and the Carlyle Group. A deal would put a current value of about $1.5B on AMC, The Times estimates.
Should a sale go through, it would see China further step onto the global stage, giving it an important foothold in the U.S. and deepening its ties with Hollywood. China is a hotbed of activity these days with new funds and partnerships being announced at a rapid clip including Bruno Wu’s plans to raise $800M for media mergers and acquisitions, content creation and to develop a Chinese marketing and distribution platform. Disney, Marvel and DMG Entertainment also recently pacted to make Iron Man 3 a Chinese co-production. The local box office is expected to hit $5B by 2015 with Hollywood movies like Titanic 3D and Battleship a huge draw. While Chinese ownership of a U.S. exhibition chain could act as a conduit for getting Chinese films into U.S. theaters, America’s taste for such movies is still a question mark. On Wednesday, however, IMAX announced it had partnered with Indomina Releasing to bring local hit Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate to North America for a limited engagement.