Lionsgate pairs with Alibaba to launch streaming movie service in China

Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:LGF) is getting into the streaming movie business with Chinese e-commerce operator Alibaba Group Holding as part of a deal to provide access to hit movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” franchises.

The Netflix-like service, called Lionsgate Entertainment World, will be available exclusively in China on Alibaba’s TV set-top boxes and is expected to launch in August.

Financial details were not provided in the Lionsgate announcement late Monday.

The streaming service will also deliver numerous Lionsgate-produced TV series, including “Mad Men,” country-music drama “Nashville” and the miniseries remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.”

The platform will also give Lionsgate a way to promote future film releases in the region, with sections of the service dedicated to behind-the-scenes footage and other premium content. The company said the partnership with Alibaba will also offer customers VIP screening invitations and special merchandise related to its movies.

Hollywood producers have spent years trying to solidify relationships with the Chinese government and local distributors as a way to keep profits growing as North American box-office figures dwindle.

The relationships have included co-productions like this summer’s Paramount release “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” filmed partly in China, and “Iron Man 3,” which included scenes that were filmed specifically for Chinese audiences, with local celebrities, and included only in the version of the film screened in China.

A pact with Lionsgate also gives Alibaba a new source of entertainment content. The company has been expanding beyond basic consumer products this year, rolling out a broad range of digital entertainment services that include digital downloads and the base for a fast-growing media empire.

The company acquired film and TV producer ChinaVision Media Group for US$804 million in March, and a stake in streaming video web company Youku Tudou a month later. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has also made numerous investments in other local media companies.

Alibaba plans to make a public listing in the U.S. sometime this year, which is widely expected to be one of the largest IPOs in history.