Thursday, June 2, 2016
China's richest man unveils plan to take down Disney
This weekend China’s massive real estate and entertainment conglomerate, Dalian Wanda, is unveiling the first of a series of “Wanda Cities”.
The company, headed by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, has overtly taken aim at the foreign entertainment and theme park interloper, Disney (who are slated to open their $6 billion Shanghai Disney theme park on June 16, though a soft opening period is already underway).
Located in the eastern Chinese city of Nanchang, the first of 15 planned Wanda Cities slated to open across China over the next five years (a further two Wanda Cities will also open in undisclosed overseas locations), is the latest offering in Wanda’s ever-increasing arsenal of entertainment products – a key sector in China as the economy shifts to a consumption driven model and the middle class grows to 630 million consumers strong by 2022 (according to research by McKinsey).
The key to the success of this and future Wanda Cities, according to a Dalian Wanda spokesman, is that it is more than simply an amusement park, with the 200-hectare culture and tourism project including an outdoor amusement park, a giant indoor “Wanda Mall”, with indoor ocean park, film park and children’s zones, a total of ten Wanda hotel resorts (including one billed as “six star”), more than 50 dining options and a commercial shopping district.
The company estimates the Nanchang project cost a total of 20 billion yuan, or $3.05 billion at current exchange.
If anyone was under the impression that the timing of the first Wanda City opening, just weeks ahead of Shanghai Disney’s long-awaited launch (Shanghai’s local government first approved plans for the park way back in 2009), comments on Chinese state television last weekend from chairman Wang Jianlin should eliminate any doubt as to the deliberate nature of the competition being stoked by Dalian Wanda.
“One tiger is no match for a pack of wolves – Shanghai has one Disney, while Wanda, across the nation, will open 15 to 20,” the 61-year-old said.
And just in case there was still any confusion as to whether Wanda is directly taking aim at Disney, Wanda spokesman Liu Mingsheng followed up with a statement to media.
“Disney is an old brand, while Wanda is a new one. Wanda City is the masterpiece resulting from Wanda’s 30 years of development. It boasts three specialties: It’s the first creation of its kind in the world, is designed by world-renowned artists, and holds all its own intellectual properties. This is the new global culture and tourism brand that Wanda is striving to build,” he said.
“Our Chairman Mr. Wang Jianlin has said our Wanda Cities will surpass Disney in terms of visits and total revenue. Even if one Wanda City may not be a match, our 15 to 20 Wanda Cities will certainly exceed.”
Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but Disney has not had the happiest time in China in recent months, with a long-term content partnership between the company and local giant Alibaba, called DisneyLife, falling foul of regulators.
The “Regulation for the Management of Online Publishing Services”, which further restricts the (already closely monitored and heavily censored) content allowed to be published online in China by foreign companies, was implemented in March this year.
DisneyLife, along with Apple’s iTunes digital media store were both taken offline just after new regulation came into effect, only months after each had launched on the Mainland.