China’s Alibaba Goes to Hollywood with ‘Mission: Impossible 5’

Tom Cruise Mission Impossible 5 (Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty)
Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty

Just nine months after Alibaba (BABA-NYSE) raised $25 billion in the largest-ever U.S.-listed initial public offering (IPO), the Chinese dominant e-commerce shopping search engine, electronic payment service and cloud computing company is coming to Hollywood.

Rather than spend years trying to generate name recognition, Alibaba announced that it will invest in and become the distribution agent for Paramount Studio’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which premiers on July 31 in the U.S.

Founded in 1999 with a $60,000 personal investment, Jack Ma took Alibaba public with a valuation of $231 billion last September. China’s most valuable company will earn about $270 billion in revenue this year by providing web portals for consumer-to-consumer (C2C), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales and services via its web portals mostly, in China.

But earlier this month, Jack Ma toured the U.S. trying to win more business for the company, according to Bloomberg News. As the keynote speaker at an Economic Club event in New York, Ma announced that Alibaba had cut a deal with Equinix, which runs data centers and interconnection points around the world, to expand “Alibaba Aliyun” cloud computing business. The move paves the way for North American companies to use Alibaba’s cloud in China, and for Chinese companies to do business in the U.S.

The move put Alibaba on a collision course to challenge (AMZN-NASDAQ), which just opened a cloud data center in Beijing. In the past, had joined other U.S. brands, including Costco and Burberry, in opening an online shop on Alibaba’s Tmall site, which lists products and handles payment processing in China.

Alibaba’s web business is all about eyeballs–and nothing generates more worldwide media fan attention than Tom Cruise, with the first four Mission: Impossible movies grossing $3.2 billion. Alibaba Pictures announced on Wednesday that it will collaborate with Paramount for online ticketing, merchandising and movie promotion in China for the fifth consecutive Christopher McQuarrie movie, starring Cruise as Ethan Hunt.

Alibaba Group’s Taobao Movie, an app that allows online ticketing and advance seat selection, will be one of the major ticketing platforms for the film in China. Taobao Movie also directly interlinks with Alibaba Group’s mobile shopping app Mobile Taobao, which has a 289 million active mobile users, and the third-party online payment platform Alipay, which gives consumers access to Taobao Movie to buy tickets.

Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has made no secret of his ambitions to expand into the film business, and has described his firm’s goal as being “the world’s biggest entertainment company.” Alibaba Pictures raised $807 million from a share offering last year, and has announced that it will soon raise another $1.6 billion.

Alibaba Pictures is producing a slew of films by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, including Bai Du Ren, which will be directed by novelist Zhang Jiajia and feature Tony Leung as the lead actor. The company has also made a string of entertainment business acquisitions, including  buying an 8.8 percent stake in Enlight Media, one of China’s leading private film and TV companies, for $380 million in March.

Alibaba Pictures CEO Zhang Qiang told the Hollywood Reporter: “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is our first step toward internationalization, and Alibaba Pictures looks forward to collaborating with more international movie studios where we can consolidate resources, technologies and talents to establish a world class integrated entertainment platform for the film industry.”


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