Sony unit, Dalian Wanda in tie-up to tap China's huge movie market

Fri Sep 23, 2016 5:28am EDT
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By Jackie Cai and Brenda Goh

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group will market Sony Pictures' films and co-finance some upcoming movie releases of Sony Corp's film unit in China, which is forecast to become the world's top movie market as soon as next year.

Wanda, owned by China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, and Sony announced a deal on Friday under which Sony Pictures will utilize China's biggest theater chain owner Wanda to better access a rapidly growing yet restricted movie market.

The alliance will help Wanda extend its Hollywood footprint and further Wang's goal of making the group a global entertainment powerhouse.

Wanda said in a statement on its website the tie-up would use its consumer-facing infrastructure to bolster Sony Pictures' presence in China, which is on track to surpass the United States as the world's biggest probably by next year, according to industry executives.

"This partnership makes a lot of sense for both parties. Sony will benefit from smoother distribution and playback of its films in China and Wanda will be able to further integrate into the content development side of the business," said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal of China Market Research Group.

"We are going to see more cooperation going forward...Tie ups make sense because a lot of Chinese companies are also becoming interested in film financing as a form of investment," he said.

This would be Sony Pictures' first partnership with Wanda, which has previously invested in movies made by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures unit, such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" sequel, and would give Wanda a step into movie marketing.

Despite an economic slowdown and dipping ticket sales, China showed how it could still be a savior for Hollywood producers in June after Universal's $160 million blockbuster "Warcraft" managed to chalk up $156 million in China in the first five days despite flopping in the United States.   Continued...

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China, July 13, 2016. REUTERS/Sue-Lin Wong