As part of a planned presentation in Los Angeles next Monday (Oct. 17), Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin will announce a 40% subsidy – aka a production rebate –for projects that shoot at the Qingdao complex. Wanda’s so-called “development fund” will cover both feature films and TV shows, according to those familiar with the evening press event. The gathering, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater, is an opportunity for Jianlin to promote to the media and to Hollywood insiders the importance of the growing relationship between the U.S. and China.
Finance for the 40% subsidy will come jointly from Wanda group and the Qingdao Municipal government, these sources said.
The incentive, which will be available to qualifying international or local Chinese productions, is potentially a gamechanger for China’s film production relationships with the rest of the world. International movies and TV shows rarely use Chinese locations unless they are seeking a particular Chinese angle or advantage, such as local co-production status or Chinese finance. However, the modernity of the Qingdao studios, combined with the subsidy may now attract productions that have little or no Chinese component.
On Monday, Wang is expected to name some of the first international movies to shoot at the facility. Wanda is seeking to attract up to five major Hollywood movies and some 30 Chinese productions a year to its Qingdao studios.
The 40% figure is also unusually high and raises the bar in international competition for film location work. Asia-Pacific neighbors New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia all offer generous rebates and other incentives and have recently attracted movies that included “San Andreas” and “Alien” and TV series such as “Marco Polo.”
Backlot and stage rentals, set construction, equipment rentals, local accommodation and transport are understood to be considered as qualifying spending for the Wanda/Qingdao scheme.
Chinese media have reported that set building has already begun for “Pacific Rim: Maelstrom,” a sequel to Legendary Entertainment’s sci-fi fantasy “Pacific Rim.” Legendary was acquired by Wanda in January this year for a figure of up to $3.5 billion. Prior to the acquisition Legendary’s Chinese subsidiary Legendary East used the coastal city of Qingdao as location for a substantial part of the location work on its upcoming movie “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon and directed by China’s Zhang Yimou.
Wanda is said to be investing some $4.45 billion (RMB30 million) in the construction of the Qingdao studios. But figures are unclear and may also include the other residential and commercial developments around the site.
The first facilities at the site are opening ahead of schedule and now include 15 completed stages and 11 set building workshops. When fully built out in 2018, the complex will have 30 stages, cover 200 acres and include a massive underwater tank. The production studios will be accompanied by a permanent film festival complex, hotels, a wax museum, hospital, theme park and a yachting club that dovetails with another Wanda acquisition, luxury boat building firm Sunseeker.
The greenlight for the studio was given a memorable kick-off in September 2013 when Wang invited some 20 Hollywood and Chinese A-listers – including Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman and Zhang Ziyi, to hear him articulate his vision for the project.