AMC Deal Signals Hollywood's New Bond With China

China's Dalian Wanda Group and AMC Entertainment announced a deal on Monday for Wanda to take over the U.S.-based AMC theater group. The companies say it would be the world's largest cinema chain. It's the latest in a string of deals between Hollywood and Chinese companies.

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That theater near you might now be owned by a company far, far away. A Chinese real estate group is going to shell out $2.6 billion for the U.S. theater chain AMC.

NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports this is just the latest development in an increasingly cozy relationship between China and Hollywood.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The new blockbuster "The Avengers" took in more than a billion dollars at the box office, more than half of that overseas, and much of that in China.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

TOM HIDDLESTON: (as Loki) You were made to be ruled.

BARCO: The scene is perhaps a metaphor for the relationship between China and Hollywood. Theater-going has been dropping in the U.S., so movie studios have been increasingly expanding business investments in China, and the country is now the biggest foreign market for Hollywood. Today's deal is the reverse. By buying the AMC theater chain, Dalian Wanda Group becomes the planet's largest cinema owner. Last year, China saw a 30 percent increase in box office sales.

MATT BELLAMY: They want more movie theaters. The appetite for movies is very strong there.

BARCO: Matt Bellamy is news director at The Hollywood Reporter. He thinks the Chinese companies are interested in learning from the way movies are shown in the U.S.

BELLAMY: They want to build more multiplexes. They want more theaters. The demand in China is growing. So I think they think that by buying this U.S.-based company with all of these executives and all this infrastructure, they can help build out their footprint in that country.

BARCO: Now the U.S. government is taking notice of Hollywood's relationship with China. There are reports that Washington regulators with the Securities and Exchange Commission are asking film companies to look into their business practices with China.

STEPHEN SALTZMAN: Look, the concern is corruption, business objectives being achieved through the bribery of public officials and government officials.

BARCO: Attorney Stephen Saltzman is attending the Cannes Film Festival. He represents foreign-based producers and production companies

SALTZMAN: The studios are very sophisticated, large companies that train their executives very well and are very sensitive to these kinds of issues.

BARCO: One big roadblock for U.S. studios is China limits the number of American films it can show. So, one way Hollywood is getting around this is by co-producing with Chinese companies. The Walt Disney Company announced it will work with a Chinese film company on "Iron Man 3" and it will film parts of the third movie in the billion-dollar franchise in China, too.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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