For a lot of years, I spent a lot of time--as in long-hours, six-day weeks--managing motion picture theaters in six different cities. Before that, I got my training and experience by working at my hometown Mayfair Theater in West Virginia, the Paramount Theater in Times Square, New York City, and at the iconic Hollywood Paramount in L.A.
I loved every minute of it all, and the wonderful memories are too many to count. That's why today's movie theatre news hits me hard and is so tough to take.
In a $2.6 billion dollar deal, China's Dalian Wanda Group has effected a takeover of the largest American movie chain, AMC Entertainment. This acquisition will link the world's largest theater market with the world's fastest growing theater market. China's Wanda Group will become, by far, the world's largest motion picture chain, with nearly 6,000 movie screens around the globe.
My concern is this. American movies have always had a profound influence on American culture. With control of the largest chain of theatres in the United States in Chinese hands, will that influence be to the benefit of Chinese interests? Wanda is a privately owned business, but it is a Chinese business under the control of the Chinese government.
What makes me all the more wary is the word that the Securities and Exchange Commission is checking into the dealings of American and Chinese film makers.
It is possible, and perhaps even probable, that the Chinese could soon have a say in both the production and the exhibition of the movies we see in our local theaters.
For me, this scenario is like watching a horror film.