The man behind the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropoliswhich is expected to be finished in 2017certainly has connections. Wang Jianlin is the 58-year-old founder and chairman of megadeveloper Dalian Wanda Group. According to both Bloomberg News and Forbes magazine, he is now the richest man in China. Since Dalian Wandas 2012 acquisition of AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion, he is also the owner of the second-largest chain of movie theaters in North America. The centerpiece of the planned Qingdao complex will be a suite of 20 fully equipped, state-of-the-art film studiosone of which will be designed specifically for filming underwater scenes. Other planned facilities include a theme park akin to Orlandos Universal Studios, celebrity wax museum, yacht center, and bars and restaurants. When completed, the project will transform Qingdao into a city of global film and television cultural tourism, Wang said in a statement. According to the Wall Street Journal, he is also planning to build a Hollywood-esque sign on a nearby hillside. Wang said in a statement that his aim is for at least a hundred films a year to be shot at the studio complex, including some 30 foreign films. That might sound ambitious, but the star-studded Sunday ceremony did attract Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Co. as well executives from Warner Bros. ( TWX ), Viacom ( VIA ), Paramount Pictures ( VIA ), and Lions Gate Entertainment ( LGF ). Its not clear if any deals have been inked between foreign studios and Dalian Wanda Group. Separately, Dalian Wanda Group last week announced a $20 million donation to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to build a film museum in Los Angeles.Beginning in 2016, the Academy will advise Wangs company on hosting an annual fall film festival in Qingdao.

Hollywood stars turn out for China’s new ‘cinema city’

Construction has already started but the complex will only be operational from 2016. Wang told a lavish and star-studded ceremony the development was part of China’s bid to ramp up its “cultural power” on the world stage and create a “Chinawood” that could one day rival Los Angeles as a global centre of film. China’s communist leaders have said the country must make greater use of so-called “soft power” to promote the nation’s values abroad. But critics say censorship is hampering the Chinese film industry’s ability to compete with Hollywood, and even those films that get a strong reception in China have difficulties in cracking the bigger US market. Sprawling across 376 hectares (900 acres) on the outskirts of the eastern port city famous for its “Tsingtao” beer, the “Movie Metropolis” will have 20 studios including what is billed as the world’s largest. It should produce “at least a hundred films a year”, according to the Wanda Group, which says it has reached preliminary agreements to ensure that 30 foreign films will be shot there each year. Local film stars such as Zhang Ziyi, Jet Li and Xu Zheng, who have themselves become international brands in their own right, were joined on the red carpet by some of the stars of Hollywood — the institution Wang is looking at rivalling. Kidman, dressed in black trousers and a cream jacket, was joined by fellow A-listers Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ewan McGregor and Christoph Waltz. Cheryl Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) which organises the annual Oscars, also attended the gala, saying she was “very enthusiastic” that the complex could turn Qingdao into “an international centre of cinema”. Hawk Koch, the former president of AMPAS, told AFP the new development should increase cooperation between Chinese and international film industries. “I don’t think it’s a competition (with the Oscars), there is always room for great talents,” he said. “I think Qingdao festival is a place where there will be more and more interaction” between actors and directors from the two sides of the Pacific, he added. With 1.3 billion increasingly affluent people, China is also a major market for American film makers. Last month Beijing and Hollywood resolved a row over tens of millions of dollars in owed local box office revenues.