Venice: Chinese Online Video Giant iQiyi Aims to Stream Fest Films in China

Gong Yu
Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

Chinese online video giant iQiyi is at the Venice Film Festival with a bold new project to bring more international films from global fests to Chinese audiences.

The company is working on several concepts, including streaming the pics in China day-and-date with their festival release.

“It’s important that we have as many movies as possible but it’s difficult for us to buy movies overseas. We think the international festivals are a big opportunity,” said iQiyi founder and CEO Gong Yu.

The Netflix-like platform, owned by Chinese search engine Baidu, is the main sponsor of this year’s Venice Film Market. iQiyi is either the first or second biggest video platform in China, according to different measurements.

Gong noted that the Chinese quota system limiting the number of foreign films coming into the country applies to theatrical releases but not to online distribution.

And while iQiyi has volume deals with Fox, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Columbia Pictures – and is in talks to reup its deal with Warner Bros. – “the window in North America is a problem for us,” Gong lamented, because “we have to wait a long time.”

He added: “But movies in festivals – most of them are brand new.”

iQiyi movie channel business director Song Jia said it has launched a project called Online Festival Screening “because Chinese audiences are curious about European cinema.”

It could, of course, be mutually beneficial.

“We think film festivals are a very good opportunity for us, and also for European producers and distributors,” she pointed out.

iQiyi succesfully launched an online screening initiative at the Shanghai Film Festival in June.

It streamed nearly 30 titles including the fest’s winner, Greek director Pantelis Voulgaris’ “Little England,” a romantic drama which generated so much traffic that iQiyi is now trying to arrange a theatrical release, if Chinese censors allow it and if it can find the right partner.

“Our plan is how to push forward with this project,” Song said.

iQiyi is in talks on collaborations with international fests including Venice, Pusan and Tokyo.

More longterm plans are also underway to start “an iQiyi online film festival with new titles from around the world. And we can pay them according to traffic,” she added.

This year at Venice 11 titles in the official selection – all from either Horizons or Biennale College – are screening online via the Sala Web, powered by Festival Scope. The pics are streamed as they go on screen on the Lido and for five subsequent days.

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  1. Rex says:

    And no one’s worried about this endeavour originating in and supplying the country that has the absolute worst reputation on the ENTIRE PLANET for piracy of not only its own films but those from everywhere else? In a way I suppose this is great, because perhaps whatever films I miss paying premium ticket prices for at my city’s international film festival in the future might be quickly slipped into torrents and onto DVD-Rs for sale in the world’s Chinatowns thanks to deals like this. It’s sad the Chinese are so powerless against their own government that they have to cobble together online film festivals like they’re somehow entitled to what their government denies them, but it hardly seems the ideal forum for films to be seen in while they’re still on the fest circuit, of all places. China can still play quota games against largely superior films from around the globe, and the makers and distributors of those films are just supposed to settle for the “opportunity” to let billions of Chinese see their films at home before the rest of us? Nice.

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