China’s Wanda Group CEO Says Hollywood Needs to ‘Go Back to Storytelling’

Wang Jianlin believes recent tentpoles rely on technology and visual effects at the expense of a good plot

Wang Jianlin, the CEO and founder of China’s Dalian Wanda Group — owner of Legendary Entertainment and AMC Theaters — came to Los Angeles on Monday night to unveil more details about Wanda’s 408-acre Qingdao Movie Metropolis, and announce a 40 percent rebate to lure Hollywood productions to China.

Although Wanda’s aggressive entertainment dealmaking has raised some suspicions in Washington, Monday’s event, which featured remarks from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, focused on the ties between the two countries. Wang pitched the Qingdao park as an “opportunity” and not a “competition” for Hollywood, careful to point out the jobs he expects it to create for entertainment industry workers.

However, Wang couldn’t resist taking a dig at Hollywood’s recent spate of special effects-heavy blockbusters — many of which are hugely popular in China. Wanda’s Legendary Entertainment, which it acquired for $3.5 billion in January, has produced two films in that genre — “Jurassic World” and “Warcraft” — that were among China’s biggest box office movies ever. However, Wang had plenty of strong opinions about the quality of recent Hollywood fare.

“From a Chinese perspective, Hollywood is the professor and Chinese filmmakers are the students,” he said in a speech in Chinese that was translated into English. “How do you tell the teacher to increase their quality?”

Wang singled out films that rely heavily on visual effects — although he didn’t name any specifically. He wondered aloud whether Hollywood had become reliant on movies that emphasize technology and “big scenes.”

“It seems like Hollywood is starting to tell less of a good story,” he said.

Wang closed that portion of his remarks by speculating that such a reliance on spectacle wouldn’t be able to deliver box office results indefinitely, which prompted cheers from several in the mixed crowd of Chinese dignitaries and Hollywood execs.

“To tell a good story purely depending on technology will not work forever,” he continued. “We have to make Hollywood go back to storytelling.”