Don’t fear the China theater experience. Some of our favorite cinemas are in Shanghai — our favorites include Palace in the IAPM mall, UME, the SFC Theater in the Grand Gateway and Hengshan Cinema.

When it comes to purchasing tickets at the box office, though, tickets are often sold out for the times you want and are double the price of a ticket overseas. Like everything else these days, there’s a mobile app loophole for that. In this article, we’ll show you how to use WeChat, AliPay, and Gewara, which will get you tickets at up to 50% off and guarantee you a seat of your selection.

If you haven’t set up AliPay for mobile payments yet, you can do that by taking a look at our article on that, and we’ve got a short how-to on setting up WeChat Wallet in our article on taxi apps.

Scroll down to whichever service you’d like to use, though it’s worth getting all three because there are price differences, and depending the deal the app has with the theater chain, some movies might be available for purchase earlier on some apps than others.

How To Buy Movie Tickets With WeChat

WeChat ticketing system is handled through WePiao, which you can access through the Wallet section of their app.

Tapping on the Movie Tickets button transfers you to the WePiao app with a list of the movies currently shown in your area. Select the movie you want to see, hit the big green button on the page that pops up, and you’ll get a selection of the nearest theaters. If Chinese isn’t your strong suit, you should look up the address of the theater you want beforehand to match it with the right one on the list.

Select the time you want, the seats you want, and hit the green button on the top that says “选好了” (I’m done selecting). WeChat Wallet will take over from here. Double check that the phone number listed under the total price is yours, tap the payment button, and enter your six-digit WeChat Wallet pin into the box that pops up.

Once the payment has gone through, tap done, and you’ll get transferred back to the WePiao screen. You can exit WeChat now, as the key code you’ll use to pick up your tickets at the theater is sent to your phone in an instant message.

How To Buy Movie Tickets With AliPay

AliPay does their ticketing through Taobao, both of which are subsidiaries of Alibaba, who has been making big investments in ticketing, and sponsors the Shanghai Film Festival. The setup here is very similar to WeChat and pretty straight forward.

Tap the Movies section, and select the movie you want to see. The next screen has date and theater options. Like WeChat, if you can’t read Chinese, it’s best to have the theater of your choice written down so you can find it in this list.

Tap the time you want to see the movie and select your seat. Hit the blue confirmation button and you’ll be taken to the payment screen. Again, hit the blue button, this time to pay. A box will pop on the screen, informing you that AliPay will send the ticket codes to the phone number listed and that this process cannot be undone. So make sure you’ve got the right number entered.

Tap confirm to make the payment, which sends you to a confirmation screen once completed. You’ll likely receive the ticket codes immediately instead of the 15 minutes that AliPay asks for.

Note: For this ticket, I selected the theater in the IAPM mall, which takes two codes that you’ll need to combine when entering it into the kiosk. So that’s the 674106 number plus the 206506 number, entered together as 674106206506. More on retrieving tickets form kiosks below.

How To Buy Movie Tickets With Gewara

Gewara is a major online ticketing service that primarily works in movie tickets. They sometimes get access to movies earlier than other payment options, allowing you to purchase your tickets further in advance. You can download their app through their website at

Tap on the film roll icon to see the films currently showing in theaters. Select the film you want and tap the orange button to pick a theater and a date. You can select a theater through the list option or through the map view, which is a feature the other apps do not offer. However, currently map view only allows you to select a showtime for the same day of your purchase.

The next screen lets you choose your seating, however you’ll be prompted to log into the app if you haven’t yet. If you don’t have a Gewara account, you can sign up for one by tapping “快速注册” (Fast Register).

Enter in your phone number, hit the “获取” (Obtain) button and Gewara will send you a code to enter in. Type that into the second box, enter in a username and password, and hit the big button on the bottom to register. This whole process will take about a minute.

Now you can select your seat. Tap the orange confirmation button on the bottom when you’re done. Enter in the phone number that you want the ticket codes to be sent to, and select your payment method on the next screen. That transfers you to the payment app you’ve selected.

Once the payment has gone through, the screen returns to Gewara. A slideshow gives you the details of your purchase, including the ticket pick-up code. The code can also be found in the “我的“ user account section from the home screen.

How To Retrieve Tickets At The Theater

Every movie theater listed in these apps have touchscreen kiosks, usually a few, where you can pick up the tickets. The kiosks sometimes run different software and have different layouts, but the process is basically the same. Enter in your ticket number, hit confirm, and the machine will print out your tickets. As mentioned earlier, some theaters such as the Palace in the IAPM sends out two numbers instead of one that need to be combined when entering them into the kiosk. Once your ticket printed, it cannot be reprinted.

There you have it. Purchase your seats ahead of time and spend your ticket savings on some sweet popcorn. Now if we could only get earlier release dates and some more films shown in the theaters…