AFP | China buys soft power with hard cash in Hollywood

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China - HollywoodChina buys soft power with hard cash in Hollywood

by Frankie Taggart | March 14, 2016

Los Angeles (AFP) – With cash flowing faster than the Yangtze river, Hollywood is awash with ever-expanding volumes of Chinese funding, but analysts are warning the film industry there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The Beijing-based Wanda Group’s record-breaking deal in January to buy US film studio Legendary Pictures finally confirmed the long-heralded emergence of the world’s second biggest box office as a major player in Tinseltown.

The $3.5 billion agreement is the largest-ever cultural takeover by China, with US studios keen to capitalize on its burgeoning cinema market at a time when Beijing is pushing entertainment as a source of “soft power.”

Legendary, the maker of “Jurassic World,” “Godzilla” and the latest Batman trilogy, has grossed more than $11 billion worldwide since it was founded in 2005, mostly with the kind of big-budget blockbusters popular with Chinese audiences.

“It’s a win-win situation… because the China market is really incredibly taking off and Hollywood has a real interest in that,” Stanley Rosen, a political science professor at the University of Southern California, told AFP.

It is an arrangement that benefits both sides financially, with movies becoming increasingly expensive to produce but the Chinese hungry for Western-made films.

Jonathan Landreth, managing editor of the New York-based online magazine China File, warned in a recent article that Wanda and Legendary were operating under Jinping’s “looming encouragement” and said the deal could not have gone ahead without the approval of China’s Communist Party.

“While Wanda invests in Hollywood to make money, the deal sees Legendary unwittingly becoming one of the most powerful channels for Beijing’s worldview, a worldview that bars open discussion of the jailing of dissidents and the disappearing of booksellers,” he wrote. (Read More)


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