After six months in coma, one of the key markets of international movie industry is coming back to life. It’s going to be a long awakening though.
People in China can finally return to watching films in indoor theatres since yesterday (20th July) as the coronavirus pandemic seems to continue to decline in this country. However, according to Chinese cinema operators, the business is still far away from resurrection. The second-largest movie market in the world was hit hard by the shutdown that started earlier than anywhere else, in January 2020. Screenings are limited to 30% capacity. The spectators’ temperatures are taken upon arrival and both staff and customers have to wear face masks at all times. No food or drinks are allowed to be served.
Perhaps the most significant issue is that local audience still has to wait for the fresh production to come as majority of the projected films is old. Of the 23 flicks aired on Monday, 22 were released before. “The worst days are not over. We can’t run a normal business with no blockbuster and more than half of the seats unavailable,” complained Cheng Hang, owner of Brilliance Cinema in Hangzhou, eastern China for Financial Times. Because of the new safety measures, he does not expect to make high revenue in the near future. Wanda Film, the China’s largest cinema owner for instance anticipates a loss of up to 1,6 billion yuans (approx. 182 million pounds). The economic experts agree that many theatres will go bankrupt this year (plenty of them already did) and the rest will struggle to make ends meet.
Recover of Chinese market is crucial for the entire film industry as number of large Hollywood movies (such as Disney’s Mulan) need presence of local spectators to secure their profits. Although the journey to this goal will be indeed long and painful, a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel has sparked at last.