By Erich Schwartzel

LOS ANGELES-- Comcast Corp.'s Fandango said Thursday it is buying a leading Latin American ticketing service, the latest in a string of acquisitions that continue to stretch the company beyond just selling movie tickets in the U.S.

Fandango's international footprint will expand considerably with the purchase of Cinepapaya, which sells movie tickets in Mexico, Argentina, Peru and four other Latin American countries.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

With Cinepapaya, Fandango will gain another foothold in the growing Latin American market, which has attracted interest in the exhibition industry because it has fewscreens relative to its population growth and appetite for moviegoing. The market growth in Latin America has outpaced the U.S., where box-office receipts have stayed relatively flat in recent years. Last year, Fandango bought Ingresso.com, the largest online movie-ticketing service in Brazil.

Since Fandango President Paul Yanover joined the company in 2012, the company has undergone significant expansion. The Cinepapaya deal is Fandango's sixth acquisition in four years and its third in 2016. Fandango is part of Comcast's Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. is a minority owner.

Some of its recent acquisitions, like the purchase of digital movie businesses Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes, have turned Fandango into an all-purpose movie destination. No longer just a site for buying tickets, Fandango wants to cover the "lifecycle of moviegoing," said Mr. Yanover, including reviews, audience response and video content.

Fandango sells tickets for roughly 28,000 screens in North America--a healthy majority of the company's total possible footprint. There are about 40,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, but not all of them are equipped to sell tickets online.

Fandango has long battled for screens with chief rival MovieTickets.com. But as consumers turn to online ticketing more regularly, both companies have seen new competition emerge through smaller firms such as Atom Tickets or movie-theater companies that manage their own online sales.

Fandango's growth will primarily come from getting more consumers to think to buy their tickets online, said Mr. Yanover.

One way to track that consumer adoption: monitoring which showings are being purchased through Fandango. Several years ago, the service was primarily used when consumers wanted ensure a seat for a highly anticipated title on opening night.

Now, more than half of the tickets sold on Fandango are for screenings outside the debut weekend, said Mr. Yanover, which indicates more general consumer adoption of the service. The company has seen 40% growth in its year-over-year box-office sales so far this year.

Big-event movies still blast off, though. On Monday, sales began for the Dec. 16 opening of Walt Disney Co.'s "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and hundreds of thousands of tickets were sold on Fandango in the first few minutes of availability.

It was the second-highest day of presales in Fandango's history--second only to "Rogue One's" franchise cousin, last year's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Write to Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 01, 2016 09:14 ET (14:14 GMT)

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