After months of being battered by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, life is starting to return to normal in China. As the country reports decreasing numbers of new coronavirus cases, hundreds of Chinese movie theaters have started to re-open. But even as more than 500 cinemas have turned on the lights again, the Chinese box office still faces an uphill battle.
Variety reports that more than 500 cinema screens have re-opened in China, where the coronavirus outbreak has finally begun to slow. But as the number of coronavirus infections in China drop daily and daily life begins to resume, the Chinese box office is still seeing minimal intakes — giving Hollywood a preview of the months to come.
According to state media, 486 theaters opened on Friday, with the number rising to 507 by today. That number still represents less than 5% of all movie theaters in commercial operation prior to the outbreak. But if the careful opening of cinemas seems apprehensive, Chinese moviegoing audiences are even more so: the box office revenue on Friday totaled less than $2,000. In Fujian and Guangdong, two populous coastal regions that border Hong Kong, not a single ticket was sold.
However, even as China reported no new local cases of the virus, the first films to play at the newly re-opened theaters were designed to prevent large gatherings of people. Exhibitors programmed re-runs of films that already had theatrical debuts, like the 2019 Chinese box office record-breaker Sheep Without a Shepherd — which led the box office charts on Monday — alongside re-runs of American films like the 2019 Best Picture winner Green Book and the family film A Dog’s Purpose. Warner Bros. is planning a potential re-release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to help rejuvenate Chinese theaters, but no release plan as yet been announced and it does not appear on ticketing websites.
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