Sony Pictures and Dalian Wanda Group have announced in China and confirmed yesterday’s Deadline scoop that the China-based conglomerate will partner on numerous Sony tent poles with global appeal. (Release follows this update). On some films, Wanda will mainly provide marketing help in launching films in China, and on others, Wanda will provide between 10% to 15% in co-financing. Nothing is official, but sources say that several pictures are atop the list being discussed for this arrangement. They include the in-production reboot of Jumanji with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, and Passengers, the Morten Tyldum-directed sci-fi love story that stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. The other pictures I’ve heard is the new version of Smurfs, and Barbie. Reports that followed Deadline’s story claimed Spider-Man: Homecoming would be part of this deal aren’t exactly correct, as Wanda’s participation is limited to helping in a marketing capacity to launch the webslinger in China.
Tom Rothman has been remaking Sony to be a more globally-oriented company, and the Wanda alliance most certainly will help in that regard because of its infrastructure in reaching a fast growing moviegoing audience in China with ticketing platforms, entertainment plazas and theme parks. The corporation has been growing its influence in the Middle Kingdom, and has a lot to offer. That includes its new ownership of Chinese movie portal Mtime, which is bought for $350 million. Chinese consumers rely heavily on such services to purchase their tickets. Wanda is also the largest exhibitor in China with 18% of PROC screens, and its recent deal with Imax in a landmark deal for additional theaters strengthens its position there.
Rothman acquired international rights to the Blade Runner sequel that Alcon is backing, with Denis Villenueve directing Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling and Ridley Scott producing. It’s unclear at the moment if this picture will involve Wanda, but it is certainly the kind of movie that would appeal to the movie loving audiences in China. This was clear in technicolor with the release of Legendary’s Warcraft. While the picture failed in the U.S., it did eye-popping grosses in China that underscored the potential for Hollywood studios to cushion themselves on pricey VFX heavy tent poles.
It gives Wanda an even bigger presence in Hollywood, one that was already strong with its $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary last January, which puts Wanda in position of co-financing as many as six movies a year with Universal Pictures. In an interview with Reuters this year, Wanda chief Wang Jianlin said that when the company adds its AMC Theaters stake to its purchase of Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and Carmike Cinemas, Wanda will control 15% of global box office revenues, on course to reach its goal of controlling 20% ahead of the 2020 target. “My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China,” said the chairman earlier this year, saying he expected to invest multiple billions.
DALIAN WANDA GROUP AND SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT ENTER INTO A MULTI-PICTURE ALLIANCE
Strategic partnership capitalizes on continued growth in the world’s largest international film market
BEIJING – September 23, 2016 – Dalian Wanda Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group today announced that they will enter into a strategic alliance that will include equity co-financing in some cases, comprising a number of Sony Pictures’ upcoming high-profile releases in China.
Wanda will provide its massive consumer-facing infrastructure in China to bolster Sony Pictures’ commitment to broaden its global presence. The deal also furthers Wanda’s cross-cultural support of the global feature film industry.
“The Chinese market for Hollywood films continues to boom, and this alliance gives a huge boost to our ability to connect directly with its audiences. Wanda is a dynamic entertainment player led by the visionary chairman Wang Jianlin; we are honored to be in business with them. I am also pleased to be working again with my friend and former colleague Jack Gao,” said Tom Rothman, Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group.
Following the acquisition of AMC and Legendary Entertainment in the US, Odeon & UCI in Europe, and Hoyts in Australia, Wanda continues to identify mutually beneficial opportunities to work with major Hollywood studios to further its position as a worldwide entertainment leader. The deal will utilize Wanda’s extensive digital and physical infrastructure, including Wanda Cinema Line – Asia’s largest cinema owner – as well as Wanda’s 100+ entertainment plazas, its growing theme park business, and its leading electronic movie ticketing platform. Wanda recently announced a significant exhibition deal with IMAX, which will see the construction of 150 additional IMAX theatres in China.
Sony Pictures’ films in China are distributed by China Film Co. Ltd and Huaxia Film Distribution Company.
“After much collaboration and discussion, Sony and Wanda came to a mutually beneficial agreement that will result in these two great companies collaborating on the most important films. As the global film industry continues to explode, Wanda values strategic alliances with content companies to foster international collaboration. Wanda’s track record and unparalleled assets in China make Wanda the key partner in the coveted Chinese marketplace,” said Jack Gao, Sr. Vice President & CEO of Intl. Inv. and Operations, Wanda Cultural Industry Group. “This deal furthers our worldwide entertainment strategy as we look forward to positive returns and establishing closer relationships with leading media companies.”