Wanda Group to invest $15 billion to compete with Disney in China

Six months after promising to outperform Disney in China, the  Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group said it will spend nearly $15 billion on a rival theme park and more than a dozen malls in the heart of the world’s most populous country.

Wanda signed an agreement with the municipal government of Changsha in China’s Hunan province to spend more than $7 billion on a Wanda City theme park in that city, plus another $7 billion on 15 shopping plazas throughout the province.

The announcement appears to show that Wanda is making good on its chairman’s vow made to compete with Walt Disney Co.’s $5.5-billion theme park in Shanghai, which opened in June.

A representative for Wanda said the company had nothing to add to its news release.

In May, Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin predicted failure for the Shanghai Disney Resort and pledged to build 15 to 20 smaller theme parks across the country over the next several years to compete with Disney.

"The frenzy of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and the era of blindly following them has passed," he said.

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment on the development.

Meanwhile, Wanda has been spending heavily in the entertainment industry. 

In January, Wanda reached a $3.5-billion deal to acquire Burbank-based Legendary Entertainment, one of the film production companies behind "The Dark Knight," "Jurassic World" and "Godzilla" movies.

More recently, Wanda announced a partnership with Sony Pictures, giving it some creative control over upcoming Sony films and boosting China’s influence in Hollywood.   

Wanda suffered a setback in August when it closed its indoor movie theme park in the central Chinese city of Wuhan for “upgrades and renovations” less than two years after the park opened.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.


UPDATES:

5:10 p.m.: This article was updated with a response from Wanda Group.

This article was originally published at 3:50 p.m.

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