The Lunar New Year is prime season for moviegoers in China. But the outbreak of a new coronavirus in the country resulted in the hotly anticipated family-friendly flick Lost in Russia canceling theater screenings. Instead, the film is getting an online-exclusive premiere thanks to a deal with ByteDance, which will include showings on China’s version of TikTok, Douyin. And even though ByteDance is paying 630 million yuan (US$91 million) for the streaming rights, the film will be available for free for a limited time starting January 25th.
Lost in Russia, produced by Huanxi Media, will also be showing on ByteDance’s news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao, Huoshan Video and Xigua Video, in addition to Douyin and Huanxi’s own video platforms. The deal was prompted by safety measures to contain the spread of a pulmonary disease originating in Wuhan, which has already infected hundreds of people and resulted in more than two dozen deaths.
In an effort to prevent the further spread of the virus, some online platforms have refunded movie tickets and theaters have cancelled new releases, dealing a heavy blow to local theaters and movie production houses. But it could turn out to be a good deal for ByteDance, which is seeking to pivot away from just offering short videos to offering live streaming and longer video formats.
This article first appeared on the Abacus News.