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HONG KONG – The heads of DreamWorks Animation and China’s Dalian Wanda Group were among the high-profile speakers at a conference in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Thursday.
Speaking at a Fortune Global Forum panel, DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose company previously established the Shanghai-based Oriental DreamWorks venture with an assortment of powerful state-backed Chinese companies, and Wang Jianlin, the real-estate mogul whose company is the largest cinema operator in China and also the owner of North American cinema chain AMC, discussed industry trends.
“With the development of information technology, there’s a great future for the animation industry,” the latter said during the onstage discussion.
Katzenberg arrived in Chengdu alongside Jennifer Yuh, the Korean-American director of Kung Fu Panda 2, in what was likely an attempt to launch a charm offensive there: The city is the provincial capital of Sichuan Province, the largest breeding ground of pandas in China.
Kung Fu Panda 2 remains the highest-grossing animation film ever released in the country, having grossed $99.1 million (608.35 million yuan) there in 2011.
At Thursday’s panel, the Wanda boss, meanwhile, railed against Hollywood producers who “want to earn money in China, but want to keep their own style,” leveling criticism specifically at Iron Man 3, of which a special cut was tailor-made for Chinese audiences, featuring three minutes of extra scenes revolving around A-listers Wang Xueqi (who plays a doctor seen operating on Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark) and Fan Bingbing (who appears as his assistant).
Wang said the scenes were merely a token and did not respect Wang and Fan as “they aren’t the most important stars in the movie.”
“If American studios do this and want to earn money, but they don’t respect Chinese consumers they will, fail in China,” a Forbes report quoted the tycoon as saying, noting also how the remarks generated large applause from a mostly Chinese crowd. “You can’t have double standards,” Wang added.
Opening in China early last month, Iron Man 3 — which is still in release in the country — has emerged as Hollywood’s biggest hit so far this year in what is now always described as the biggest film market outside the U.S. The Marvel-DMG Entertainment joint production has already taken in $122.3 million (751 million yuan) up to and including June 5, making it the seventh-highest-grossing release ever in the country.
Meanwhile, a Sichuan Online report carried on the ifeng.com news portal that said that DWA and Wanda had inked an initial cooperation agreement to work together on future projects was denied by a DWA spokeswoman. “There is no deal between DWA and Wanda,” she told THR.
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