Dalian Wanda, Sony to partner on multiple big-budget movies

BEIJING — China's Dalian Wanda Group and Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group have formed a partnership to cooperate on multiple big-budget movies, marking another step into the global film industry by the Chinese conglomerate.

Wanda, which already owns AMC Theaters and bought Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion in January, said it would both invest in Sony productions and strive to highlight China in those films.

"The alliance will help strengthen Wanda's power to influence the global film industry, and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment," said the statement it released Friday.

Jack Gao, Wanda's head of international investment and operations, said Wanda would continue to seek alliances with other content companies and closer relationships with leading media firms.

The statement did not name the films involved, although trade magazine Deadline reported possible investment and promotional cooperation for "Passengers," the sci-fi love story starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt being released later this year in the U.S.; a reboot of "Jumanji" due next year with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black; and an animated Smurfs film.

Legendary Entertainment begins production in 2017 on the first live-action Pokemon movie, called "Detective Pikachu."

Hollywood has been drawn to China by the country's deep-pocketed financiers and its box office that is now the world's second biggest. A quota on foreign films allows just 34 a year to show in Chinese theaters on a revenue-sharing basis, but the financial conditions improve vastly for Chinese-foreign co-productions.

Wanda has also been expanding its share of global box office, with AMC recently purchasing European cinema chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group in a deal making it the largest movie theater operator in the world.

Originally a property and cinema giant, Wanda has also expanded into sports, becoming a top-tier sponsor of FIFA in a deal that runs through the 2030 World Cup, for which China is considered likely to bid.

Wanda has also purchased Swiss firm Infront Sports & Media, Tampa and Florida-based World Triathlon Corp., along with acquiring a 20 percent stake in Spanish football team Atletico Madrid.

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