Chinese internet giant Alibaba is usually associated with e-commerce, but it's also moving into movies and entertainment. So it's logical that Alibaba brought a show business aspect to its massive annual 24-hour online shopping festival this year. To kick off the sales, it hosted a celebrity-filled 3½ hour TV variety show featuring boy bands, divas, shiny costumes, magic tricks, banter and cameos by Daniel Craig and Kevin Spacey.
Alibaba Group's markdown event, known as Double 11 or Singles' Day, started at midnight and tallied up $3.9 billion in sales in the first hour. That's more than the $2.65 billion Adobe says was spent during all of Cyber Monday last year. And it's also about double what Alibaba logged in the same time period last year, which bodes well for consumer spending at a moment when brands are worried about China's slowing economy. More than 10,000 international brands are taking part in the sale, including Procter & Gamble, Burberry, Apple, Nike and Macy's.
Alibaba's variety program aired online and on a popular satellite TV station before the start of shopping at midnight. The show was directed by top moviemaker Feng Xiao Gang and starred an onslaught of mostly Chinese celebrities. Online, scalpers sold tickets for seats in the audience for up to $785.
In the first act, Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai burst onstage wearing gold lame, surrounded by male dancers in bondage-inspired gear and stiletto heels. Then the "Star Wars" Stormtroopers marched into the Water Cube, the Beijing Olympic venue where the event was filmed.
Adam Lambert performed his song "Ghost Town." Daniel Craig, in China promoting the latest James Bond film "Spectre," appeared onstage with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.