The country’s national film bureau has contacted all exhibitors today saying that venues must be closed again, with no immediate timeframe for re-opening. The news has begun to spread across popular social media service Weibo.
This weekend, a ray of light seemed to be shining from the Middle Kingdom when more than 500 cinemas re-opened their doors to the public after being closed since late January (though largely no one turned up). That represented only 4.5% of the country’s cinema real estate, and didn’t include its major chains, but there was optimism that this was just the first wave and that others would follow suit in the coming weeks into April.
As we reported earlier today, the city of Shanghai was set to re-open a further 205 cinemas on Saturday, indicating that this latest update appears to be a sudden u-turn in policy from a national level.
The spread of COVID-19 has slowed considerably in China recently, with only one locally-transmitted case recorded in the last three days. However, there has been a spike in imported cases, with some 53 being reported yesterday as having come from overseas. In response, the Chinese government has said it will stop foreign citizens entering the country as it looks to avert a second wave of the virus.
China was the original epicenter of the virus when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan. The government put in place strict (and some have said controversial) containment measures to stem the spread, which appears to have worked to a large degree. Yesterday, Wuhan ended its quarantine and re-opened transport to and from the city. In total, the country has seen 81,340 confirmed cases, a figure now overtaken by the U.S., which is still in a much earlier stage of the virus spread.