CHINA - An ambitious studio complex built by China's richest man will be a major boost for the country's film industry but experts say it needs more than sprawling grounds to rival Hollywood.
Global A-listers Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Catherine Zeta-Jones showed up on Sunday for the lavish event to showcase plans for the Oriental Movie Metropolis, set to span 376 hectares, in the eastern port city of Qingdao.
The 50 billion yuan (S$10.2 billion) complex will house 20 studios that will turn out 100 films a year, including 30 foreign productions.
Backing the project is China's richest person, Wang Jianlin, whose conglomerate Wanda last year acquired US cinema chain AMC Entertainment to become the world's largest cinema operator.
"I think it's exciting to see Wanda build these facilities. But it takes much more than hard assets and facilities to do good movies," said Robert Cain, who has done business in China since 1987 and is now a partner in a film co-production company.
"There is a huge gap in the skills which remain between China's film industry and Hollywood."
While Beijing is aware of the importance of using its "soft power" overseas, the state tightly controls the film industry and cuts any subject matter that might be politically sensitive.
Rarely do domestic movies attract an international audience - and even Chinese moviegoers have shown lukewarm interest in local offerings.
Although a quota of just 34 foreign films can be shown in the country each year, these made up more than half of Chinese box office sales last year.
However, the first half of 2013 showed a reversal. Ticket sales for Chinese films more than doubled those of the same period the year before, surpassing foreign films for the first time in five years.