Huayi Brothers (SZ:300027), the China’s Warner Bros., announced yesterday that its wholly owned subsidiary Huayi Brothers (Tianjin) Interactive Entertainment Limited would acquire a 51% stake in Maizuo, an online movie ticket booking service for RMB266 million (US$43mn).
Huayi Brothers said this is one of the moves to “Internetize” their businesses and would roll out services ranging from crowdfunding, social features for movie fans, to movie ticket pre-selling. One of the biggest movie studios in China, Huayi just celebrated its twentieth birthday earlier this month. Jack Ma, the chairman of the board of Alibaba Group is serves as a board director at it.
This is not the first investment in an Internet business by Huayi. The company bought 50.88% interests in mobile game developer Yinhan in 2013.
The company behind Maizuo was founded by two early employees of Tencent, Chen Yingkui and Wang Xing. Online movie ticket booking wasn’t the first idea with which they founded the company though. In 2009 they decided to pivot to build Maizuo — The name means “high-grossing”.
Maizuo now covers about 700 movie theaters in more than 80 Chinese cities, according to the Huayi Brothers statement.
But Maizuo isn’t so widely used as some other movie booking apps like Meituan’s CatEye Movie — Maizuo didn’t launch the mobile app until July 2013. Wang Xing, the CEO of Meituan, claimed sales through CatEye accounted for 9% of the total box office grosses in China as of December 2013. If that’s accurate there’s no doubt CatEye was the biggest online movie ticket service by sales.
A couple of movie ticket services that emerged from movie ratings & reviews services such as Douban and Mtime that are widely used in China too. Bigger players are also aware of the fast growing China’s movie market. Tencent has integrated its own movie ticket service QQ Movie Ticket into WeChat that users are able to make payments with WeChat Payment. Xiaomi, the rising smartphone maker, has introduced third-party services like Mtime that users can buy tickets directly through a channel.