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Fandango buys Cinepapaya to take advantage of growing Latin American film market

Fandango buys Cinepapaya to take advantage of growing Latin American film market
Fandango President Paul Yanover in front of a historical photo of the TCL Chinese Theatre, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Fandango, the largest online ticket seller in the U.S., is looking to take a bigger slice of the growing film market south of the border.

The Los Angeles company on Thursday said it had acquired Peru-based online ticket seller Cinepapaya, expanding Fandango's reach to seven new countries in Latin America including Mexico, Argentina and Colombia.

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Fandango would not disclose financial terms of the deal, the latest in a flurry of acquisitions by the company.

The acquisition comes about a year after Fandango gobbled up Brazil's largest Internet ticketing company Ingresso.com for $71 million, starting its international expansion with a major foothold in South American's largest film market.

Latin America is an attractive geographical area for Fandango as the box office continues to improve thanks to the construction of more theaters and a rising middle class in many countries. Box-office receipts in Latin America increased 13% last year to $3.4 billion in ticket sales, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

"This is a great opportunity to complement the efforts we've already put in place in Latin America," Fandango President Paul Yanover said. "It allows us to expand to multiple countries and really get scale in the region…. It's about acceleration."

Sales for Rio de Janeiro-based Ingresso, for example, have grown 30% so far in 2016 compared with the same period last year, Fandango said. By adding the new countries, including Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, Fandango will nearly double the number of consumers it can reach in the region.

Exhibitors have also been turning to Latin America for growth. Plano, Texas-based Cinemark, the No. 3 U.S. cinema chain, has built a robust presence there with 183 theaters and 1,323 screens in 15 countries.

Cinepapaya provides ticketing for Cinemark, Cinepolis, Cinestar and other theater circuits in the region. Founded in 2012, Cinepapaya's investors included Brazilian Internet company Movile, which pumped $2 million into the start-up in 2014.

Fandango, a unit of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal, has been steadily buying up other companies as Yanover tries to expand its business.

The ticket seller in February bought film review website Rotten Tomatoes and movie discovery app Flixster from Warner Bros. Entertainment. As part of the deal, the Burbank studio acquired a minority stake in Fandango. 

In January, Fandango announced that it would purchase M-Go, a site that lets users buy and rent movies and TV shows online, in an effort to offer more perks for its customers. Fandango acquired the digital video channel Movieclips in 2014 to expand its reach among film fans who head to YouTube to watch new trailers and classic scenes.

Fandango is by far the biggest ticketing company, servicing 28,000 screens. Smaller competitors include MovieTickets.com and start-up Atom Tickets, a social media-focused company whose investors include Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Co.  

Ticket sales have increased 40% so far in 2016 for Fandango, propelled by costumers' increasing propensity for buying things online through their smartphones. About 70% of its sales are made through mobile devices, the company says.

Fandango is a major purveyor of advance ticket sales, which have become increasingly important for Hollywood studios and theater chains. The site recently got a boost from the first day of advance ticket sales for the upcoming sci-fi spinoff "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

The film sold hundreds of thousands of tickets within the first few minutes of release, according to Fandango, resulting in the site's biggest first-day presales total since last year's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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The influx of fans trying to use the site caused some slowdowns for Fandango on Sunday, leading to complaints from customers on social media. Fandango dealt with the customer surge in demand by creating a queue system for the deluge of ticket buyers.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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