Communist Party, Military Themes Help Struggling Alibaba Entertainment Unit Turn A Profit

Production and distribution of films that explored themes such as the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party helped Alibaba Pictures Group turn a profit in the year ending March 31, the company said today.

The chronically money-losing film and entertainment arm of China e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba Group reported net profit of 169.8 million yuan, or about $26 million, compared with a loss of 96.3 million yuan a year earlier. Revenue increased by 28% to 3.6 billion yuan during the period ahead of recent Covid lockdowns in Shanghai and elsewhere in China.

Alibaba Pictures “upheld its value of ordinary people performing heroic deeds that promotes strong sentiment and positive vibes, while at the same time gripped major themes, such as the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the 70th anniversary of China’s entry into the Korean war against American forces, as well as China’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

The group “produced and distributed many exceptional films in celebration of Chinese spirits, Chinese values, as well as China’s strengths and esthetics, including among others, ‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ and its sequel ‘Water Gate Bridge,’ which advocate heroic spirit and patriotism,” Alibaba Pictures said.

Alibaba Pictures participated in the production and distribution of 44 films in the 12 months to March 31, generating over approximately 26 billion yuan at the box office, accounting for 71% of the box office of domestic films, it said.

Alibaba Pictures’ declaration of profit for the year to March ends years of red ink. It lost 96.3 million yuan for the year ending March 2021, 1.15 billion yuan for the 12 months ending March 2020, 253.6 million yuan for the year ending March 31, 2019, 1.8 billion yuan for the 15 months ending March 31, 2018, and 958.6 million yuan for the year ended December 31, 2016. It made 466 million yuan in 2015, but lost 415 million yuan in 2014.

Alibaba Group, whose main founder is billionaire Jack Ma, made a big push into the entertainment industry in 2014 just ahead of its IPO at the New York Stock Exchange. Alibaba Group purchased a 60% stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a Hong Kong-listed media and program content producer, for $805 million at a price of HK$0.50 a share in June 2014. The stock tripled in connection with the announcement, and ChinaVision changed its name to Alibaba Pictures.

Shares peaked at HK$4.9 in 2015; they closed at HK$0.70 in Hong Kong on Wednesday and have lost 35% of their value in the past year.

Alibaba Group, a powerful e-commerce leader whose businesses also include finance, logistics and supermarkets, owns half of Alibaba Pictures, according to figures at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

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