China’s richest man may aim to be the biggest force in the global film industry, but that doesn’t mean he’s all that interested in movies.
The real-estate turned entertainment tycoon “only goes to the cinema once a year, with his mother,” according to a Financial Times report this week that cited an associate of Wang Jianlin.
So uninterested is the businessman that, in an interview with the paper, Wang even claimed that he hasn’t even seen The Great Wall the highly-touted US$150 million, Legendary Entertainment-produced film released in December 2016.
“I have not seen this movie so I really cannot give a detailed judgment of the movie,” Wang told the FT’s Lionel Barber. “But it did not reach our expectations either in terms of content or the box office.”
In the interview, Wang presented himself as a formal and disciplined businessman in contrast to Hollywood types who “tend to be more casual because they are engaged in the creative industry.”
“I’m not a filmmaker, I’m a businessman with a film company, but I cannot be equated to a film expert. This is the first point,” the former soldier said. “I always wear a suit and tie.“
The interview marked the first time Wang had spoken to the Western media since his planned $1 billion takeover of Dick Clark Productions fell through due to new Chinese currency controls.
Wang confirmed that the policy had been the reason the deal fell through, though he also vaguely pointed to policy changes on the US side.
Last year, 16 members of the US Congress called for greater scrutiny of China’s investments in American entertainment companies. In a letter, the lawmakers cited Wanda’s purchase of Legendary and AMC and expressed “growing concerns” about the potential for Chinese censorship and propaganda in Hollywood movies.
While the tycoon’s global ambitions have taken a hit, he remains bullish about the potential for growth in the film industry in China. The Chinese film market “will be able to restore long-term double-digit growth,” with more of a focus on quality content and long-term investment.
Wang still has some use for all the capital he’s unable to get out of the country. In fact, by Wang’s own estimation, his company is spending $8 billion to build what he calls “the Hollywood of the East” in the coastal city of Qingdao.
Even if he’s unable to buy up Hollywood in America, Wang seems determined to build his own, back at home.
“Based on current estimations, the investment funding, equipment, and infrastructure, will exceed Hollywood and will form the Hollywood of the East,” Wang told the FT. “This will happen very quickly.”