China: Wanda Strategy to Beat Disney, Dreamworks Takes Shape With Wuhan Theme Park Launch

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda Chairman H

AMC cinema chain owner wants to become a major entertainment industry player

Dalian Wanda Group, China's biggest real estate company and the world's largest cinema owner, has officially launched its $1.13 billion movie theme park in the central city of Wuhan, part of its strategy to take on Disney and Dreamworks in the domestic market.

Wanda, which owns the AMC cinema chain, is keen to become a major player in the entertainment business, and is rumored to be considering moving for a Hollywood studio stake, with Lionsgate often mentioned.

Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin officially inaugurated the Han Show Theatre and the Wanda Movie Theme Park at a ceremony in Wuhan. It says it will be the first indoor theme park in the world.

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"The Han Show and Wanda Movie Park are first of a kind, unique projects which will undoubtedly become new symbols of Chinese culture as well as leading new global entertainment brands," Wang said at the opening in Wuhan. The project was designed by Stufish Entertainment Architects.

Wanda is planning to spend over $32 billion on a series of theme parks and entertainment facilities, including over 200 children's theme parks by 2020. The plans are focused on the company's vast real estate holdings in China.

Wanda will invest $8 billion to build a cultural tourism project in Guangzhou, which on completion would generate annual revenue of $800 million and compete with Disneyland in Hong Kong, while another park in Wuxi in Jiangsu province will compete with Shanghai Disneyland, the first Disney park on the Chinese mainland, which is scheduled to open in the city's Pudong district at the end of next year.

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In March, DreamWorks Animation and its Chinese partners unveiled designs for a $2.4 billion entertainment complex, also in Shanghai, while NBC Universal is building a $2.5 billion Universal theme park in the suburbs of Beijing.

Among the dignitaries taking part in the launch were former US ambassador Gary Locke and Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who as well as being a film director is also famous for events such as the Olympics opening ceremony in 2008 in Beijing.

The Han Show was designed by architect Mark Fisher and directed by Franco Dragone. Among the attractions at the Wanda Movie Theme Park are Ultimate Energy, a 5D theater that integrates 3D projection, live actors, props, stunts and special effects into one ride, transporting guests into the future to a time when man is at war with machines.