A Dog’s Purpose” wasn’t even going to be released in China, where few American dramas without special effects or A-list stars are successful. But Amblin last fall, seeking a Chinese investor to give its movies better play in China, sold a minority stake in the studio to Alibaba. Shortly after, Ms. Wei, of Alibaba Pictures, saw “A Dog’s Purpose” and its potential.
.. Alibaba promoted the movie alongside pet adoption agencies and held special screenings for people and their dogs, Ms. Wei said. It plumbed its online movie-ticket service to target pet owners, families, women and others it believed would like the movie. Alibaba representatives traveled to theaters to persuade exhibitors to allocate screens, bringing the e-commerce data to support their pitch... Alibaba lobbied the state-run distributor to extend the movie’s run to eight weeks, twice as long as most imported films... A combination of Chinese regulations and the unpopularity of state-run television don’t allow the kind of large-scale TV ad campaigns used in U.S. marketing... China requires a few million dollars in digital advertising and a local, hands-on touch as simple as lobby displays... “It really is an enormous market in terms of how much you need to do to reach beyond the biggest cities,” said Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, Warner Bros.’ head of international distribution. “Having a local partnership is really helpful in maximizing the scale and scope of your campaign.”