Dalian Wanda Creates World’s Biggest Theater Chain

China’s richest man goes to Hollywood and buys it.

If this were a movie, it would be screened, most likely, in a theater owned by Wang Jianlin, the largest commercial real estate developer in China and Asia’s wealthiest person. The proposed acquisition, early in March, of the number-four US movie theater operator Carmike Cinemas by number-two AMC Entertainment, which is owned by the 61-year-old billionaire’s conglomerate, Dalian Wanda Group, is set to create the world’s largest cinema chain. The deal, due to close by the end of the year, came just two months after Wang agreed to pay $3.5 billion for production company Legendary Entertainment, known for blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Jurassic World.

Wang’s bet on the movie business is a relatively low-risk, high-reward investment. Despite the slowdown in the economy, over the past few years the Chinese entertainment industry grew at double-digit rates, outperforming traditional sectors such as manufacturing. In February, China’s box office scored a massive $1 billion monthly haul, eclipsing North American sales for the first time. “Hollywood will have to pay even more attention to the preferences of Chinese audiences, as well as to those of the Chinese government,” says Wharton marketing professor Z. John Zhang. “Hollywood, as we know it, may be on an accelerated pace of transformation in the near future because of it.”