Top Three Video Streaming Giants Co-Host First Virtual Cinema Project in China Amid Spring Festival

On Feb. 5, China’s top three video streaming platforms, Alibaba Group’s Youku (NYSE: YOKU), iQIYI Inc. (NASDAQ: IQ), and Tencent Holding’s Tencent Video (OTC: TCEHY) announced their cooperation in launching the first online cinema project in the country during China’s Lunar New Year holiday, known as Spring Festival. 

Representatives behind the virtual cinema project (Source: CRI)

The online cinema project will allow users to watch films premiered on these video-streaming platforms via premium video-on-demand (PVOD) starting Feb. 12, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. Many films plan to pre-sell tickets online and some directors and leading actors will also participate in live-streaming events to engage film fans online. 

“This project is co-hosted by China’s most outstanding video streaming platforms and I believe this new entertainment approach will provide users quality service during the holiday,” said Alibaba Pictures President Li Jie. 

Following the administration’s call on cutting travel plans during Spring Festival due to the pandemic resurgence, many people have decided to stay home this holiday. The first online cinema project will speed up the film industry’s digital revolution. 

Source: Weibo

Per the 2020 China Online Film Industry Annual Report released by the China Film Association, digital films were streamed 11.2 billion times, a year-on-year increase of 30% from last year. Among all digital-premiered films in 2020, 79 movies accounted for more than 10 million ticket sales, a surge of 41 more movies than last year.

“The online cinema project will build a strong supply chain of quality films going digital and stimulate a new consumption pattern, which will boost the internal circulation of the cultural industry’s ecosystem,” said Wu Manfang, President of China Film Association’s Working Committee. 

PVOD is trending globally amid the pandemic. Major blockbusters like Mulan was released on Disney+ in September 2020. The Witches starring a “bald” Anne Hathaway was just in time for Halloween on HBO MAX on Oct. 22. According to sources, 17 films planned for release in America by Warner Bros. Entertainment in 2021 will be streamed on HBO MAX simultaneously.

Source: Disney+

In the Chinese film market, iQIYI took the lead among Chinese video streaming platforms in exploring PVOD and launched more than 10 award-winning films, in which Spring Tide was nominated for Best Feature Film and Best Director at the 33rd Golden Rooster Awards; Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was selected as one of the top ten films of 2020 by leading French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma.

iQIYI recently announced that its long-awaited action film Shaolin Master, is scheduled to premiere on the platform’s Ultimate Online Cinema section on the first day of the holiday.

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“We hope that Shaolin Master can win favor with audiences as previous PVOD titles have. Going forward, iQIYI‘s Ultimate Online Cinema section will continue streaming a slate of high-quality films, providing premium new offerings for our subscribers. At the same time, we also hope that PVOD will achieve sustainable development, as we work with platforms and creators to build a healthy online film ecosystem where filmmakers can identify their clients, guarantee their incomes, and seize exciting new opportunities,” said Song Jia, Vice President of iQIYI and General Manager of iQIYI Film Business Center.