Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis
Actress Nicole Kidman shakes hands with fans at a red-carpet event promoting the Wanda Group’s Oriental Movie Metropolis project in Qingdao, in China’s Shandong province, on Sunday. Reuters

China’s film box-office revenue is expected to surpass North America’s by 2018 and double it by 2023, so instead of importing an ever-increasing number of Hollywood films, one Chinese businessman hopes to create his own Hollywood-style cinema city along the port of Qingdao, about halfway between Beijing and Shanghai.

China’s richest man and head of property-and-entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd., Wang Jianlin, said the sprawling $8.17 billion Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis would be both a film center and family theme park, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

“Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis is a major measure to implement the national policy of building a cultural power, a major strategy for Wanda’s cultural industry development and a major attempt to create China’s global cultural brands,” Wang explained Sunday. “Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis will revolutionarily improve the level of cultural industry in Qingdao, greatly upgrade the level of tourism in Qingdao, and even transform Qingdao’s positioning to turn it into a city of global film and television cultural tourism.”

A coterie of Hollywood elite attended the lavish launch ceremony Sunday, including the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or AMPAS, the chairmen of the world’s top four entertainment talent agencies and A-list movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Travolta and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The grand plan for the 376-hectare (900-acre) Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, announced at the event, is almost too ostentatious to believe. The Wanda Group said the complex would boast more than 20 studios when it becomes fully operational in June 2017: One would be the world’s largest, while another would be fixed underwater. The Movie Metropolis would also house China’s largest film museum, the nation’s largest celebrity wax museum, an Imax research laboratory and theaters that can accommodate as many as 3,000 people.

The Wanda Group said it had already reached preliminary agreements with a number of global film and television giants to have about 30 foreign films shot and produced at the new studios each year. At the same time, the facility hopes to lure more than 50 domestic film and television production companies to ensure that at least 100 homemade films and TV shows are shot and produced in Qingdao annually.

Meanwhile, the adjacent Wanda Cultural Tourism City would include eight seaside resort hotels, a yacht club with 300 berths, an indoor ice rink, year-round automobile show, retail outlets and a strip of waterfront bars and restaurants. The Wanda Group also announced plans for an indoor theme park with “the world’s only customized high-speed roller coaster,” as well as an indoor water park with “the world’s first indoor water roller coaster.” The parks will feature a 3D motion theater called “Flaming Mountain” and a 3D interactive cinema called “Legend of Heroes.”

“Whether in terms of investment, scale or grade, Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis is an unprecedented project,” China Film Association Chairman Li Qiankuan said at the ceremony Sunday.

“In addition to its world-class hardware, this project has won recognition from many global film giants and domestic film producers, and many domestic and foreign movies will be shot here after its completion. Even more gratifying is the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will support Wanda in hosting Qingdao International Film Festival. It is high time China had a film festival with international standing; it is a dream for all of us in the Chinese film circle.”

Pending government approval, the Wanda Group said it would join AMPAS, the world’s top four talent agencies and the China Film Association in launching the Qingdao International Film Festival each September, starting in 2016. Wang said this was the first time in 86 years that AMPAS had thrown its support behind a film festival outside the U.S., and he believed the academy’s help would make Qingdao one of the world’s top festivals by 2020.

The Wanda Group paid $2.6 billion last year to acquire the U.S. cinema chain AMC, and just last week gave a gift of $20 million to help fund the AMPAS film museum in Los Angeles. Qiankuan said the company was poised to become a pivotal giant in the world film industry by consolidating its film screening business and entering film production.