Wanda steps up rivalry against Disney in China with second park

Wanda park Image copyright AFP

China's Dalian Wanda has stepped up competition with Walt Disney, opening its second theme park in the country.

On Saturday, the company welcomed the first visitors to the new 34bn yuan ($5.1bn; £3.9bn) park in Hefei which also has hotels and a shopping mall.

The firm plans to build as many as 20 more such parks across China by 2020.

Dalian Wanda has been outspoken about its rivalry with US firm Walt Disney which opened its first theme park in mainland China in June.

In May, Wanda launched its first theme park in Nanchang just weeks before Disney launched its Shanghai park.

At the Nanchang opening, Wanda owner and China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, said he wanted to move away from Western imports and to establish a global brand based on Chinese culture.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Wanda chief Wang Jianlin: not too keen on Disney's China presence
Image copyright AFP

Analysis: Robin Brant, BBC News, Shanghai

Walt Disney wants to go very big in one place in mainland China: Shanghai. Dalian Wanda is going for a smaller, cheaper presence in many more places. The two firms have very different strategies in the country.

Disney's $5.5bn gamble in Shanghai is a behemoth of an entertainment complex.

Although Wanda's chief Wang Jianlin has made much of his desire to take on Disney at its own game, his offering is quite different. There's less of an overall "experience" - fewer rides with some animated characters and hotels and retail on a smaller scale.

Wanda's sell seems to be a cheaper- but just as much fun- day out.

So far, Disney still has a significant lead in the key part of this equation - intellectual property. With Star Wars and Marvel's array of characters to add to Mickey Mouse it has much to entice families.

Wanda is now looking to develop something similar with its vast cinema chain and the well established independent US production firm Legendary Entertainment, which it bought earlier this year.

In an interview in May with state-run broadcaster CCTV, Mr Wang said in May that Wanda wanted "to ensure Disney is not profitable for 10-20 years in this business segment in China".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Wanda put up $5.1bn for the new Hefei park

Disney's Shanghai park is its sixth theme park and its fourth outside the United States after Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

A number of further Wanda theme parks are currently under construction, with one in Harbin slated for opening in 2017 and the next in Qingdao, Guangzhou and Wuxi in 2018 and 2019.

A Wanda movie park in the city of Wuhan was opened in 2014 but at the end of July unexpectedly closed for renovation.

The rivalry between Dalian Wanda and Walt Disney comes as China's slowing economy affects domestic consumer spending. At Wanda's cinema arm, ticket sales were up by only 12.8% in the second quarter compared to 61% in the first.

Related Topics

More on this story