China Re-Opens 500+ Cinemas As Coronavirus Cases Ease, Moviegoing Slight

As the number of new cases of the coronavirus shows signs of abating in China, a smattering of cinemas re-opened in a handful of provinces across the country this weekend. On Friday, there were 486 movie theaters back at work, while Saturday the total was upped to 507, local reports say. This reps just 4.5% of the Middle Kingdom exhibition infrastructure and brought in an estimated $4,355 on Saturday, per ticketing platform Maoyan.

The biggest concentration of cinema-goers was in Xinjiang which had previously been the site of the first movie theater to open since the mainland shuttered all screens in January. The other provinces where theaters opened include Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Qinghai, Henan, Fujian and Guangdong.

These small steps to get China back up and running come at a time when the rest of the world’s movie theaters are essentially all closed for business. Today, Australia became the latest major market to shutter its cinemas. Still in operation to a degree are Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Korea and Japan though each with limitations.

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As we’ve previously reported, the expectation for China is that theaters will continue to come back online through the end of this month and into April with the overall theatrical re-opening happening in waves. The first is the re-release of older local titles including Wolf Warrior 2, American Dreams In China, The Wandering Earth, Wolf Totem and Lebanese pic Capernaum. Chinese exhibitors will keep 100% of the box office on those titles, and have been encouraged to set attractive pricing while also respecting safety measures issued by Beijing.

The Hollywood studios have also been approached to bring catalog films back to the Middle Kingdom as it works to get back on its feet. Last week, Warner Bros said a new 3D 4K version of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone was due to release, though a date has yet to be set.

A second wave of titles could come in mid-to-late-April, including Hollywood pics that were cleared pre-shutdown like 1917, Dolittle, Ford V Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Bad Boys For Life and Sonic The Hedgehog. The hope is that business finds more stability in time for the May 1 holiday.

According to China Global Television, a recent survey by Sir Film found that most respondents do not have immediate plans to go to the cinema, largely citing fear of crowds and leaving home just yet, as well as a preference to wait for new movies to be released.

There were 39 new COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday, China’s National Health Commission said. Each was imported to the mainland (rather than having been transmitted domestically) where the total number of confirmed cases is 81,093 with 3,270 deaths.