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Chinese director accuses Wanda of monopolizing market

Associated Press Associated Press 18/11/2016 By LOUISE WATT, Associated Press

BEIJING — One of China's most famous film directors publicly accused the country's richest man on Friday of monopolizing the cinema market and limiting screenings of his latest movie.

Veteran director Feng Xiaogang said his film "I Am Not Madame Bovary" has been given on average 40 percent or more of available screening slots in cinemas, but only 10.9 percent in those run by Wanda Cinemas.

The theater chain operator is owned by Wang Jianlin's Wanda Group, a real estate conglomerate that has moved into entertainment, buying Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions, the TV company that produces the Golden Globes and the "Miss America" pageant, while also becoming the world's biggest cinema operator. It is also hoping to lure Hollywood producers to an $8 billion movie studio that it is developing in the eastern city of Qingdao, and recently signed up as a FIFA sponsor until 2030.

In an open letter to Wang on the microblogging site Sina Weibo, Feng said the company is monopolizing China's film production and distribution markets and is also on track to "buy up Hollywood."

He suggested that Wanda had limited the screenings of his film because they were angry that a Wanda manager had recently been poached by the production company behind Feng's latest film, private Chinese firm Huayi Brothers. Feng is also a shareholder in the company.

Wang's son, Wanda board member Wang Sicong, responded to Feng's accusations by suggesting his film was simply not good enough to merit more screenings.

"As a good director, isn't it much better for you to present a work that can speak for itself?" Wang fired back in a Weibo posting.

Wanda is China's biggest cinema operator. It has 7.8 percent of China's more than 38,000 screens, according to EntGroup, a leading entertainment consultancy.

A Wanda spokesman declined to comment on the spat.

Feng is best known for comedies and social satires. His movies include "Big Shot's Funeral," ''The Banquet" and "Aftershock," which was China's entry for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.

"I Am Not Madame Bovary" has won awards at the Toronto and San Sebastian international film festivals. It stars one of China's best-known actresses Fan Bingbing as a woman who takes on the Chinese legal system.

Wanda has said it will invest in multiple Sony Pictures productions and strive to highlight China in those films. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for closer scrutiny of such investment in the U.S. entertainment industry, concerned those moves could limit creative freedom or promote Chinese propaganda.

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Associated Press researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

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