Wanda, Dolby Grow State-of-the-Art Theaters, Eye Productions

  • Wanda opens first of 10 Dolby Cinemas to open this year
  • Wanda and Dolby plan 100 such high-tech theaters
  • The two companies also plan to work on movie production

Dalian Wanda Group’s “W”-shaped headquarters building in Beijing.

Chinese theater chain Wanda Cinema Line, the country’s largest exhibitor, said it is on track to open 10 theaters equipped with Dolby Cinema technology by December, kickstarting an agreement which will see 100 such partner locations built in total.

The first Wanda/Dolby theater in China opened Thursday in the northeast port of Dalian, showing the Legendary/Wanda-backed blockbuster Warcraft. Three more locations, in Changchun, Chongqing, and Jinan are to follow soon.

In January, Wanda Cinema Line, a part of the Dalian Wanda Group, and San Francisco-based Dolby announced an agreement to open 100 Dolby Cinema locations in China over the next five years. Both companies expect to have 10 operating Dolby Cinema sites by December.

Separately, the Jackie Chan Cinema in Beijing will have a Dolby Cinema later this year as well, bringing a total of 11 to market by the end of 2016, Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s director of content and creative relations told China Film Insider.

The high-end cinema technology promises more realistic laser-powered projection and enhanced sound to better appeal to moviegoers.

Dolby’s latest technology also allows for 3D movies to be shown at the same light level as 2D films, addressing a common concern from cinemagoers about the lack of brightness in the 3D format, Bowling said.

That’s crucial in the Chinese market where 3D movies are much more popular than in the U.S. At least 14 of the 34 foreign movies allowed into China as revenue-sharing imports each year must be presented in the 3D or large screen format.

A Dolby spokesperson told China Film Insider there “was a form of revenue share” with Wanda but would not go into detail.

The Wanda/Dolby build-out comes amid ongoing rapid growth in the film industry. China’s box office is anticipated to surpass that of America’s in 2017 and lay claim to being the world’s largest, according to international accounting firm PwC.

According to the PwC report released in early June, China’s box-office revenue is expected to hit U.S.$10.3 billion next year, while gross sales in the U.S. are expected to come in at $10.14 billion.

In a statement released Thursday, John Zeng, President, Wanda Cinema Line said his company also will be working with Dolby in movie production, in addition to collaborating on the exhibition side.

Dolby said it is already working with Chinese filmmakers on its Atmos Sound Format, and has plans to extend that engagement with Dolby Vision.

“We’re working to have systems set up in China so that we can start to create local content,” Bowling told CFI.

Wanda is the biggest theater owner in the world, having bought AMC Entertainment in 2012. In April 2015, Dolby and AMC said they would roll-out 100 of the modern theaters over the next 10 years. There are now 20 Dolby Cinemas in the United States and four in Europe.

Hollywood films scheduled to open in Dolby Cinema in the Chinese market include Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory, Twentieth Century Fox’s Independence Day: Resurgence, Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan.