Cinemas all over the world tend to have universal lobby experiences: flashy ads promoting the latest releases, concessions stands hawking popcorn and soft drinks, hordes of moviegoers queued up at ticket counters beneath electronic signboards showing screening information.
But walk into any Chinese cinema and you’re immediately confronted with a unique sight: deserted ticket counters.
Instead, China’s legion of young moviegoers—faces glued to their mobile phones—line up behind an array of brightly colored online ticketing machines to print out their tickets to the hottest new Chinese blockbuster.
China’s online ticketing industry has exploded over the past five years:
In 2013, only three out of every 10 tickets were bought online.
In the first quarter of 2017, a staggering eight out of 10 tickets sold in China came from online platforms.
The industry’s landscape has shifted significantly during that time as a myriad of online ticketing platforms competed to build strong user bases, form relationships with exhibitors and distributors, and win the backing of deep-pocketed investors.
The market share leaders that have emerged — Maoyan (猫眼), Weying (微影时代), Tao Piaopiao (淘票票), and Baidu Nuomi (百度糯米) — have helped completely transform the Chinese movie industry, and have even leveraged their newly found power into areas outside of online ticketing such as distribution, marketing, and even production.