A massive China-based conglomerate headed by a member of the nation’s ruling Communist Party announced last week the largest ever corporate takeover of an American firm by a Chinese company, sparking concerns among analysts about the tyrannical regime’s projection of “soft power.” For more than $2.5 billion, the Dalian Wanda Group agreed to purchase U.S.-based AMC Entertainment Holdings — one of the world’s top movie-theater chains — to create what will become the biggest cinema operator on earth after the merger.
Critics of the deal expressed alarm over the influence the deal is expected to give China’s totalitarian rulers within the U.S. and international film industry. As the second-largest movie-theater chain in America, Kansas City-based AMC owns or operates hundreds of cinemas in more than 30 U.S. states and at least five other nations. It is also the world’s largest operator of I-MAX and 3D screens.
As such, the firm wields a great deal of sway when it comes to what movies will be produced and shown. And for critics of the Chinese regime, the purchase signals a troubling trend. Some analysts worry that, among other problems, it may contribute to increasing fears among media and entertainment executives, resulting in even more self-censorship of the dictatorship’s crimes. Others expressed concerns about the potential spread of communist Chinese propaganda.
A re-make of the hit film Red Dawn that replaced Soviet troops invading America with communist Chinese invaders, for example, was put on hold last year when MGM got nervous — after the movie had already been filmed. The company decided to replace the marauding villains with communist North Koreans instead, presumably to avoid angering Beijing. And that was more than a year before the AMC takeover announcement.
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Photos: (Left) AMC corporate headquarters in Kansas City; (right) AMC theater at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio