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China's Richest Man Marks Push Into Hollywood With Jake Gyllenhaal Movie

Jake Gyllenhaal is getting what Hollywood calls Oscar buzz for his performance in “Southpaw,” which opens across the U.S. Friday. Wang Jianlin is getting some too, because Wanda Pictures financed the movie—a first for the company controlled by the richest person in China.

 

A first, apparently, for any Chinese company.

Wang heads Dalian Wanda Group Co., which owns the second-largest U.S. cinema chain and is building the world’s biggest studio-plus-theme park, at Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis on China’s eastern coast. Last year Wanda bought land in Beverly Hills, calling the $1.2 billion complex it plans to erect there its “first important step into Hollywood.”

Actually, it may have taken that with the check it wrote for “Southpaw,” an R-rated Weinstein Co. drama about a boxer. Wanda’s role as financier puts it a beat ahead of Chinese rivals including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. that are staking their Hollywood claims with investments and deals but haven’t yet carried the full freight of a U.S. film.

The partnership with the award-winning Weinstein studio has moved Wanda closer to becoming “a complete international entertainment company,” said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Jiaflix Enterprises, which helps market and distribute films in China.

“Southpaw” might not be a big movie, with forecasts it’ll sell about $45 million in tickets during its U.S. run. But it’s generated media attention since studio Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein showed a clip at the Cannes Film Festival that revealed Gyllenhaal’s startling transformation into a ripped prize-fighter; he has said he gained 15 pounds of muscle.