What Did China's Wanda Group See in Hollywood's Legendary?
Why did one of world’s richest men, Dalian Wanda Group's Wang Jianlin, just pay US $3.5 billion to acquire a company that has been financing Hollywood movies for just over 10 years, Legendary Entertainment?
There are many reasons: including the astonishing demand for quality pictures in China and the (not to be under-estimated) competitive instincts of China's ambitious new billionaires.
But part of the answer might also be found in the way Thomas Tull (the founder of Legendary - pictured above on the right) and Wang Jianlin both see the future of movie marketing.
In general, Hollywood has been slow to respond to the internet, while Legendary has been a leader in using online tools in ways have been especially effective in China in recent months.
For example, in China, as reported in chinafilminsider, the producers of China's all-time number one box office hit, The Mermaid (美人鱼), recently teamed with the online ticketing company Maoyan - even before The Mermaid opened on Feb. 8th, 2016 - to use "big data" to increase presales:
“Maoyan was able to collect huge amounts of data on users who purchased more than RMB 100 million worth of pre-sales tickets for The Mermaid, which Stephen Chow’s marketing team could then use to target users with similar profiles and entice them with discounted tickets.”
Then, after The Mermaid opened, Maoyan employed a tactic they are calling “24-hour three-dimensional distribution” (24小时立体发行):
“Using massive amounts of real-time box office data, [Maoyan] could see exactly where — even down to the theater level — The Mermaid was playing well. Distributor Beijing Enlight Media was then able to coordinate with exhibitors to adjust screen times so as to maximize ticket sales, a win for all parties. The marketing team also re-strategized its campaigns and targeted specific demographics by geographic areas.”
Perhaps it is the culture of using New World tools for marketing, that forged a bond between Wang Jianlin and Thomas Tull.
Without a doubt Chinese producers have been targeting mainland ads and screenings in ways that Legendary has also been exploring. As Natalie Robehmed explained in a Feb. 10th, 2016 post to Forbes, at Legendary "even before a movie has the green light it compiles customer profiles to finds audiences who are at least 40% likely to see a film and advertises only to them using cheaper digital ads."