Shanghai: China’s One-Mighty Wanda Casts Itself in Role of Survivor

Variety | 6/19/2019 | Rebecca Davis
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The soundtrack for the introductory showreel at Wednesday evening’s Shanghai press event announcing Wanda Pictures’ annual line-up was aspirational and strangely defiant.

It began with Nina Simone crooning, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good,” and then continued with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. “You thought that I’d be weak without you, but I’m stronger… I’m a survivor, I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to stop, I’m going to work harder.”

Parent - Wanda - Entertainment - Empire - Theme

The corporate parent, Dalian Wanda, whose entertainment empire straddled theme parks and cinema, film production and distribution, fell out of government favor and was put on a watch list in 2017. It also struggled with high levels of debt that forced a dramatic retrenchment. The company’s balance sheet has shrunk by more than $25 billion since 2016, yet it still has nearly 30% of its current total assets outstanding in debt obligations, according to the South China Morning Post.

Yet the lyrics and the Wanda Pictures presentation both appeared to be describing Wanda’s desire to make a cinematic comeback.

Wanda - Film - President - Zeng - Maojun

Wanda Film president Zeng Maojun echoed Beyonce in his comments on stage: “As long as you’re alive, you still have a chance. Even if the whole world doesn’t believe in you, as long as you still believe in yourself, you will still have chances.”

Last year, Wanda Pictures and U.S. subsidiary Legendary Entertainment jointly earned $3.68 billion (RMB25.4 billion) at the global box office, Zeng said. The conglomerate continues to operate as the world’s largest theater chain, with 631 theaters and 8,110 screens in the U.S. and 595 theaters and 5,297 screens in China, its two major territories.

Properties - Legendary - MonsterVerse - Ghost - Blows

Its three major intellectual properties include Legendary’s “MonsterVerse,” the “Ghost Blows Out the Life” novel series, and the “Detective Chinatown” film series, which...
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