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Wanda Film’s First Female CEO Steers the Chinese Exhibition Giant in a New Direction

Chen Zhixi is now five months into her role as chairperson and president at Wanda Film. Her appointment marks a significant milestone, making Chen one of the few women in top positions within the traditionally male-dominated Chinese film industry — and, at 42, one of its youngest and most influential leaders.

Based in Beijing, Wanda Film is China’s largest cinema chain, operating over 900 cinemas with more than 7,500 screens and also having a substantial movie production business. Chen assumed leadership in February during a period of transition for the company. The firm moved from the control of Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin and the real estate-centric Dalian Wanda Group, which sold its 51 percent controlling stake in the film unit to an investment arm of China Ruyi Holdings, a conglomerate involved in film production and streaming services. The deal was reported to be worth approximately $310 million.

Chen brings a wealth of experience to her new role, having graduated from both Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Drama and Tsinghua University, where she earned a master’s degree in finance. Her previous work as an actress in both film (Lost in Thailand) and TV (Miss Unlucky), coupled with her success as a producer of domestic hits like the 2021 comedy Hi, Mom — which grossed approximately $840 million and is slated for an English-language remake by Sony — adds to her extensive industry knowledge. Chen transitioned to management at Shanghai Ruyi Television Production in 2015 and served nearly a decade as president before taking on her new role in February.

Recently, the Chinese film industry gathered at the 26th Shanghai International Film Festival, where Chen was a prominent figure during the opening weekend, hosting a Wanda party on The Bund. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the busy executive to discuss her plans for revitalizing the Wanda Film brand.

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