Chinese streaming giant iQIYI has opened its first conventional movie theater in Zhongshan, in southern China. The company aims to build a network of on-demand cinemas, at which viewers select the content and timing.
The Yuke cinema chain will be built out in major and larger secondary cities. Theaters will be fully equipped with modern facilities and technology, including Dolby-approved audio and THX certification. Content can be selected from iQIYI’s online movie library.
Operating physical theaters will also allow iQIYI, which recently launched on the NASDAQ stock exchange in the U.S., to expand into retail services, merchandising and offline consumption.
“The development of on-demand movie theaters poses an exciting opportunity to increase the strength and overall scale of China’s film industry,” Yang Xianghua, iQIYI’s senior VP, said in a statement. “iQIYI will take advantage of our strong brand awareness, massive user base, popular content and advanced technology to contribute to the growth of this booming market and extend our premium viewing experience to offline consumers.”
iQIYI’s offline move comes at a time when video streaming and theatrical cinema in China are both expanding rapidly. China now has as many cinemas as North America and its box office last year swelled to $8.6 billion. It also comes at a time of greater experimentation. Late 2016 saw the launch of a nationwide art-house cinema chain. And earlier this month, former Wanda executive Jack Gao announced the launch of Smart Cinema, which will stream new release movies to hundreds of millions of mobile devices, within the theatrical release window.