Despite 2016 Slowdown, Wanda’s Zeng Predicts Strong China Cinema Growth

Wanda Cinemas’ president expresses optimism over the demographics of movie-going in China.

Wanda Cinemas President John Zeng (right) expressed optimism that China’s box office would return to double-digit growth.

The president of the world’s largest cinema exhibitor said earlier this week that he expects the growth of China’s cinema market to resume double-digit growth despite expanding less than four percent in 2016, according to Variety.

Speaking at the CinemaCon industry convention in Las Vegas, John Zeng, president of Wanda Cinemas, blamed poor content for 2016’s drop-off, noting that while Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Finding Dory had done well in the US, but relatively poorly in China. While Zeng said animation was not as popular in China as in North America, the performance of animated films overall was one of the year’s few bright spots.

Zeng is basing some of his hope on the age of Chinese movie-goers. Only 47 percent of online ticket buyers in North America are 18-39, but 71 percent of those pre-buying in China are in that age group. Seats in Chinese cinemas are assigned at the time of ticket purchase, compared to the general admission that is the policy at most non-IMAX theaters in North America, giving those who buy in advance an edge on better seating.

Wanda Cinemas, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, is the world’s largest exhibitor. Aside from Wanda Cinemas in China, the company also owns AMC Entertainment and Carmike Cinemas in the US, along with Odeon and UCI cinemas in Europe. Dalian Wanda also owns Legendary Entertainment, the Hollywood studio that it bought in January 2016 for US$3.5 billion. It failed to complete an acquisition of Dick Clark Productions earlier this year, likely due to new China capital outflow restrictions. Wanda’s CEO, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man.