Alibaba Pictures announced today that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will debut in Chinese cinemas nationwide tomorrow. The film represents Alibaba’s first investment in a Hollywood project. In addition to its financial investment, the film unit of the e-commerce giant has been collaborating with Paramount for weeks on online ticketing, promotion and merchandising for the film’s release in China.
Over the past two months, Alibaba Pictures has leveraged Alibaba Group’s ecosystem and massive user base to launch a user-targeted approach toward movie promotion and merchandising, including several rounds of advance ticket sales through online portal Taobao Movie. There has also been a tie-up with Mobile Taobao to release online games related to the movie. Tapping into the large base of manufacturers and merchants on Alibaba Group’s platforms, Paramount Pictures found about 30 merchants to handle the manufacture and sale of authentic movie merchandise in China.
Alibaba Pictures was borne out of the acquisition of a majority 60% stake by Ma’s group in March 2014 for $800 million as the e-commerce entrepreneur sought to add as much value to his group as possible ahead of the ultimately blockbusting IPO last September. The newly monikered company has gradually been working towards expanding its operations since its launch. In January, it announced it had brought on-board celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (In The Mood For Love) to produce its first film Bai Du Ren, written and directed by Zhang Jiajia and starring Wong Kar Wai regular Tony Leung (2046).
In March, Ma announced Alibaba had also acquired an 8.8% stake in Enlight, one of China’s leading film and TV production companies, valued at $380 million. In April, shares in Alibaba Pictures soared after its parent company — at one point valued at more than Walmart — announced it was considering an asset injection in the film unit and that it was planning to fold its online movie-ticketing business as well as its movie production crowdfunding business into Alibaba Pictures.