BREAKING: Those theaters in low risk areas in China “can resume business in an orderly manner” as early as Monday, July 20, the China Film Administration announced in a recent notice.
There were rumblings in foreign distribution that China would start reopening on this date, however, sources weren’t so sure whether that meant simply that the Shanghai Film Festival was taking place on July 25 (and thus, movie theaters would reopen). Today’s news is a positive sign of something greater.
Of course, those theaters reopening have to practice proper safety COVID-19 protocols. “Middle and high-risk areas are temporarily closed for business,” said the China Film Adminstration, “Once adjusted from low-risk areas to medium-high-risk areas, the epidemic prevention and control regulations shall be strictly implemented, and the prevention and control measures shall be strictly implemented.”
Cinemas have been closed since late January in the world’s second largest box office market, and estimates are that grosses will be down by at least $4B in 2020. There was hope earlier this year that China would gradually open before the U.S. at the end of March, leading into the country’s full opening for Disney’s Mulan at the start of May. But as soon as Shanghai announced then it was set to reopen 200+ theaters, China quickly closed down due to the spike from COVID-19 imported cases in certain areas. This despite the fact at the time that Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, ended its quarantine and re-opened traffic to and from the city.
There is a backlog of both local and U.S. product in China. But before that opens, movie theaters will be showing classic fare, just like here in the U.S. China’s theatrical re-opening will come in waves, the first being the re-release of older local catalog titles, i.e. Monster Hunt, Wolf Warrior 2, The Wandering Earth and animated feature Ne Zha, U.S. movies such as the Harry Potter franchise. Then there’s the backlog of titles such as i.e. 1917, Dolittle, Ford v. Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Bad Boys for Life and Sonic the Hedgehog as well as new Chinese local fare like Detective Chinatown 3.
Before cinemas reopening, they’ll need proper clearance: “Film departments of all regions report the work arrangements for the restoration of the opening of the cinema to the local party committee and government for approval, the local epidemic prevention and control departments shall proceed with the orderly advancement of the restoration of business. It is necessary to formulate the epidemic prevention and control plan and emergency plan, strengthen the guidance and inspection of the resumed movie theater, and pay close attention to the cinema’s epidemic prevention and control and resumption of operation. The specific time for resumption of work in various regions and related arrangements shall be reported to the National Film Administration,” wrote the China Film Administration.
All cinemas will operate in accordance with the “Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of the Reopening of Film Projections at the China Film Distribution and Screening Association”, said China Film attaching a four page document, and movie theaters will maintain the consolidation of lines and crowds, ensuring that “personnel inspections are in place, environmental disinfection is in place, and emergency treatment is in place” added the organization.
This year’s Shanghai fest will relegated to strictly those in country, with offshore guests not invited. The festival is reportedly doing away with its international jury and main competitive lineup, opting for a shortened selection of gala movies.
We’ll have more developments for you as they come on China’s reopening.