A cinema in Beijing recently announced that it had become a 'smart movie theatre' by allowing moviegoers to book tickets on their phone which can then be read by a machine a the theatre. Not a completely innovative idea, but considering Alibaba is involved, this could be a big change in the way people consume the medium. Especially as Chinese consumers are really getting into movies. Movie ticket sales in the first half of 2015 topped US$3 billion - a nearly 50% increase from the same period in 2014. Just 'Transformers: Age of extinction' on its own opened to US$91 million in China in 2014.
It then comes as no surprise that Alibaba is involved. The company behind the 'smart theatre' concept is a firm called Guangdong Yueke Software Engineering, which was acquired by Alibaba's Ali Pictures in April of this year.
If you take a step back, you can start to get a feel for what is happening here. Alibaba is rapidly creating a one-stop entertainment and financial platform. Completely mobile movie ticket sales, tied into their own movie production house (Ali Pictures), tied into e-commerce opportunities (Taobao / Tmall), and all supported by Ant Financial, who are providing the financial infrastructure to bring it altogether.
What is more interesting than just the ticket sales themselves is the potential cross sell opportunities. Imagine that you go to see the Minions movie and then you come out and your phone buzzes to offer you a Minion's toy for your kid. You could also envision other more complex uses of big data where previous shopping or dining habits combine to provide recommendations on other movies or entertainment options, all paid for using Alipay.
The scary / encouraging thing is that it's not just Alibaba that is doing it. Tencent and Baidu have both made similar media entertainment acquisitions and are now looking to leverage their platforms.
We're only at the very start of a confluence of O2O, mobile payments and big data that has not only changed the way people bank, but increasingly how they entertain themselves as well. China is truly at the forefront of re-defining what is possible.