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Today brings news that ticks three of our favorite boxes at Data Sheet: Futurism (the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed), clicks to bricks (online retailers opening physical stores), and the growth of Chinese tech giants (via a unit of Baidu (BIDU) in this case). Aaron in for Adam on this four-day U.S. work week, thinking about the future of movies.
The actual news event is of the starting small variety. Baidu’s iQIYI, a video streaming service sometimes dubbed the Netflix of China, opened a tiny movie theater in the city of Zhongshang in the southern province of Guangdong. Adding a few dozen seats to the theater capacity of the city of about 3 million people sounds like a drop in the bucket.
But the new theater, called Yuke, is actually a series of mini-theaters, each with two to 10 seats, that can be rented by the hour to show any content available from iQIYI’s library. With cushy chairs, Dolby audio, and a screen much larger than a home TV, the on demand Yuke theaters represent a new hybrid way to consume streaming video. iQIYI, which went public in the United States a few months ago, says it plans to bring the Yuke concept to all of China’s major cities.
There have been rumors that Netflix (NFLX) was pondering a more traditional theater play, as well. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Netflix considered buying the Landmark Theatres chain, but ultimately rejected the idea as too costly. With malls facing increasing vacancies, maybe something more like iQIYI’s on-demand mini-theaters would be a smarter move for Netflix.