China’s largest theater group Wanda has acquired China’s leading movie portal Mtime for $350 million. The move gives the ever-expanding Wanda a stronger digital presence. That’s particularly key in China, where digital ticket sales are the primary platform for consumers to buy tickets. Mtime’s business covers media, online movie ticketing, merchandising, e-commerce and movie marketing. Following on from the acquisition, Mtime teams will now oversee those aspects of Wanda’s business. Mtime chief exec Kelvin Hou will continue in his position.
The deal combines Wanda’s membership and user base of China’s most active filmgoers with that of Mtime, leaving a movie media division with over 220 million total active users in China. Wanda’s publicly listed Wanda Cinema Line, which controls the company’s theater circuit, will oversee the Mtime deal. Wanda had previously acquired a 20% stake in Mtime in 2015; it will now buy out the other investors, including Fidelity Growth Partners Asia.
Late last year, Mtime launched Mtime PRO, China’s first-ever movie merchandising B-to-B mobile solution and box office data tool. With the acquisition by Wanda, Mtime PRO will now be able to link to data systems covering over 95% of all theaters in China, in addition to their 200 million+ moviegoer database. An English-language version is expected to launch by the end of the year. Box office data reporting in China has been notoriously opaque in recent years.
“Wanda is excited to have Mtime join us to build the movie industry in China together,” said Zeng Maojun, CEO, Wanda Theatrical Group. “Kelvin’s outstanding leadership and entrepreneurial acumen has enabled Mtime to become the leading movie media, marketing and merchandising e-commerce company in China, with the most sought-after movie users base. In addition to their strong technical team, we believe together we will provide users with the best movie experience possible.”
Wanda has been on a tear of late, acquiring Legendary Entertainment in a $3.5 billion deal earlier this year and announcing in March it would be investing $3.3 billion by 2024 in EuropaCity, a mega-project near Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport that will boast a theme park, attractions, cultural exhibitions, retail shops, outdoor sports venues and restaurants over about 200 acres. It’s Wanda’s biggest-ever single project in Europe, which the company said will create about 14,000 jobs.
Wanda is also reportedly in talks to acquire a stake in Paramount Pictures, although any deal still appears some way off given the convoluted behind-the-scenes corporate drama at Viacom.