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Chinese Film Power: Wanda Group Buys AMC Theater Chain

China's Dalian Wanda Group has purchased AMC, the prominent U.S. theater chain, for $2.6 billion

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has purchased AMC Entertainment, one of America’s largest theater chains, for $2.6 billion, the company announced Sunday evening.

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Wanda is one of the largest exhibitors in China, and this gives the company unprecedented leverage with U.S. movie distributors as a company with significant holdings in two huge markets.

"This acquisition will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theaters and technology that enhance the movie-going experience for audiences in the world’s two largest movie markets," Wang Jianlin (pictured left), chairman and president of Wanda, said in a statement. 

This confirms a report in the New York Times from earlier this month.

Wanda will invest up to $500 million in AMC to fund “strategic and operating initiatives.”

According to the announcement, Wanda will retain AMC’s management team. The deal will not impact staffing levels. AMC employs about 18,500 people.

AMC has been owned since 2004 by an investment group that includes the Apollo Investment Fund, J. P. Morgan Partners, Bain Capital Investors, the Carlyle Group and others. Apollo and its founder, Leon D. Black, also had a major stake in the chain before it was sold eight years ago for about $1.7 billion to a group in which Apollo and J. P. Morgan are the largest holders, with about 39 percent each.

“As the film and exhibition business continues its global expansion, the time has never been more opportune to welcome the enthusiastic support of our new owners,” AMC CEO and president Gerry Lopez said in a statement. “Wanda and AMC are both dedicated to providing our customers with a premier entertainment experience and state-of-the-art amenities and share corporate cultures focused on strategic growth and innovation.”

Wanda is part of China's rapidly burgeoning cineplex business. It has 86 multiplex locations and 730 screens, including 47 large-format Imax screens.