China’s biggest streaming service iQIYI announced today that it’s launched a physical movie theater. The theater will be called Yuke theater and will open in Zhongshan, Guangdong. It’s the first of a chain of brick-and-mortar theaters that iQIYI has planned in major Chinese cities. The theaters will have Dolby audio and show films from iQIYI’s online movie collection.
iQIYI’s senior vice president, Yang Xianghua, said in a statement sent to The Verge that the move would help expand the company’s reach and provide “our premium viewing experience to offline consumers.” iQIYI, which is owned by China’s Baidu, has also gone public with its stock in the US back at the end of March. iQIYI’s active user base is quadruple that of Netflix, at 421.3 million in Q4 2017 compared to 117.58 million.
The move is notable since streaming services in the US have generally remained online-only, although there were reports in April that Netflix was in talks to buy movie theaters to stream its films. In some ways, the companies’ decisions can be explained by the state of moviegoing across different regions. Movie theater attendance in the US hit a 25-year low in 2017, but by contrast, China’s moviegoers are heading out to theaters more than ever.