BEIJING – The Chinese conglomerate Wanda on Saturday opened its first theme park, with its billionaire boss declaring war on Disney weeks before the American entertainment giant launches a similar attraction in Shanghai.
â€œWanda Cityâ€, in southeastern Nanchang, comprises a giant mall set over 2 sq km, as well as an 80ha theme park boasting â€œthe highest and longest roller coaster and the highest drop tower in Chinaâ€, according to a statement by the group.
The project represents an investment of 22 billion yuan (RM13.7bil), the statement said.
â€œWe want to be a model… and highlight Chinese influence in the cultural domain,â€ Wanda founder Wang Jianlin said during an opening ceremony at the park as he referenced an â€œinvasionâ€ of foreign cultures, according to state television channel CCTV.
A week before, Wang — Chinaâ€™s richest man, according to Forbes magazine — said he was setting his sights on Disney, which in June will open its first theme park on the mainland.
â€œThis craze for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck is over, the period when we would blindly follow where Disney led has been gone for years,â€ he said during a long interview with CCTV.
After the site in Nanchang, Wanda plans to open six more theme parks in China within three years and plans to have around 15 in the country by 2020.
â€œWe want to ensure that Disney will not be able to make a profit in this (theme park) sector in China for between 10 and 20 years,â€ he said.
â€œA tiger cannot take on a pack of wolves,â€ he said during the same interview, in which he also accused Disney of â€œcloning past accomplishments without innovatingâ€.
But experts claim Wandaâ€™s goals are ambitious, pointing to the groupâ€™s lack of experience in the market.
Meanwhile Disneyâ€™s project in Shanghai — a 5.5-billion-dollar (RM22.5bil) investment — will be its sixth theme park and its fourth outside the United States after Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
The American giant is hoping its popular franchises will appeal to a booming Chinese middle class, in a country where it has been generating an increasing share of its box office revenue.
But Wanda is not entirely new to entertainment, having bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012 and has also been branching out into film production, print media and art investment. – AFP