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A company that bears an iconic name in American television, Dick Clark Productions, has been sold for a billion dollars. The new owner is one of China's wealthiest men, and he's been on a buying spree recently in Hollywood. And that has caught the attention of Congress. NPR's Jackie Northam has the details.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: There is something quintessentially American about Dick Clark Productions. The TV entertainment company brings you star-studded events, such as the American Music Awards.
(SOUNDBITE OF AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS)
JENNIFER LOPEZ: And this year's music made me want to dance. Do you want to dance with me?
NORTHAM: The Miss America pageant.
(SOUNDBITE OF MISS AMERICA PAGEANT)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Miss New York.
NORTHAM: And it helps millions of people ring in the New Year from Times Square.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Three, two, one. Happy New Year.
NORTHAM: Now, Dick Clark Productions belongs to a Chinese company, the Dalian Wanda group, which has been steadily building up an entertainment empire here in the U.S. It bought AMC Theatres, the country's second-largest cinema chain, and scooped up Legendary Entertainment, one of the biggest movie production companies in Hollywood. The Beijing-based Wanda is marketing, distributing and investing in films.
MARC GANIS: Wanda's just been on a - on a spree.
NORTHAM: Marc Ganis is the co-founder of Jiaflix, a U.S. firm which helps market films in China. He says Wanda's owner, Wang Jianlin, wants one of the big six movie studios. He's already tried to acquire Paramount Pictures.
GANIS: He intends to make Wanda the preeminent entertainment company in the world. That is what he has said. You know, his ambitions and those of Wanda are worldwide, not just focused within China.
NORTHAM: Wanda started off as a commercial property development company and owned shopping malls and apartment complexes across China. Jeremy Wallace, a China specialist at Cornell University, says Wanda began moving into the entertainment arena after the Chinese real estate sector began to slow down.
JEREMY WALLACE: It makes sense for that firm to try to diversify its assets, to invest abroad, to invest in other types of assets away from the Chinese real estate sector.
NORTHAM: Wallace says Wanda is a private company, but with ties to the Chinese government. Wang's aggressive deal-making has caught the interest of Congress. Sixteen members of the House want the Obama administration to review whether the Chinese acquisitions in Hollywood should be subject to more scrutiny. Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, says there are concerns about propaganda and censorship.
CHRIS SMITH: If you buy Hollywood, you buy influence, you buy the ability to paint a totally false picture, a caricature of the alleged benevolence of the Chinese government, which is anything but.
YING ZHU: Hollywood is in the business of entertaining, not offending.
NORTHAM: Ying Zhu is a specialist on Chinese cinema and media at City University of New York. She says via Skype that Hollywood is already a pro at self-censoring. She says scenes and characters are often rewritten by American studios so as not to offend a country like China, which has a huge market. Zhu points to the 2012 remake of the movie "Red Dawn."
ZHU: They initially tried to feature the Chinese as the bad guy. And then they realized, wait a minute, we want a Chinese market, so let's just change it. So during the post-production, they spent $1 million changing the Chinese characters into characters from North Korea.
NORTHAM: Zhu says that Beijing's influence will inevitably increase the more that Chinese companies get involved in Hollywood productions, which could make it harder to get movies about subjects like the Dalai Lama or Tiananmen Square onto the silver screen. Jackie Northam, NPR News.
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