Huge Chinese film hub opens

The Oriental Movie Metropolis world-class film production hub boasts the world's largest studios, a commercial complex covered with giant portraits of Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe.
The Oriental Movie Metropolis world-class film production hub boasts the world's largest studios, a commercial complex covered with giant portraits of Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SHANGHAI • Four gigantic, Chinese characters are aligned on a hill overlooking a seaside film studio complex, in a nod to the fabled Hollywood sign.

Except this is northern China's port city of Qingdao, where Dalian Wanda Group, a real-estate, retail and entertainment conglomerate, is opening its doors to an audacious 50-billion yuan (S$10.5-billion) world-class film production hub called the Oriental Movie Metropolis or Dong Fang Ying Du.

The project boasts the world's largest studios, a commercial complex covered with giant portraits of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Bruce Lee. There is also a reclaimed island full of hotels, condos, two theatres and a yacht club.

It all adds up to China's largest effort yet to attract Hollywood film-makers to their production studios - the sort of move that can enhance the nation's "soft power".

Last Saturday, executives from major studios in Hollywood and China came to Qingdao, a city best known for its namesake beer, for the opening ceremony.

Presiding over the festivities, Wanda's billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin, 63, said it would become a new hub for global film-making.

Making the complex a global magnet for film-making will be a challenge, according to Mr Sun Hengqin, head of the movie metropolis and a former local government official.

"We have yet to figure out a clear strategy to attract Hollywood and other foreign film-makers," he said. "We will study what are the factors that prevent them from coming and improve our services accordingly."

The studios have been partially open since the second half of 2016 and have hosted the production of 10 films.

Other than Wanda's Legendary Entertainment, no big Hollywood studio has produced a movie in Qingdao. Most productions have been Chinese films, albeit some of them with big budgets, such as Fengshen, a 3 billion yuan trilogy based on an ancient Chinese mythological novel.

Fengshen will occupy half of the studios' 30 sound stages for the next two years, said Mr Sun, and five to six other Chinese films have committed to using the facility this year.

The entire complex spans 376ha, according to a Wanda statement.

Mr Wang, once the richest man in China, has spent big in his bid to become a movie industry mogul, starting with his acquisitions of AMC Entertainment Holdings and Legendary. Now, he is in retrenchment mode after debts ballooned and the government began scrutinising his business empire.

Last July, Wanda sold a majority stake in Oriental Movie Metropolis to Sunac China Holdings, a Chinese real-estate developer, together with 12 theme parks in the country. It still retains branding and management rights to the Qingdao studios and the 12 other projects.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2018, with the headline 'Huge Chinese film hub opens'. Print Edition | Subscribe