Chinese cinemas may be preparing to return to business as usual as the Coronavirus COVID-19 situation in the country stabilizes. While the rest of the world goes on shutdown, businesses in the Middle Kingdom are slowly picking up where they left off. Having been on a stringent lockdown earlier, theatres are attempting to open their doors to the public yet again.
According to a report by Variety, China Film Group released a list of five titles in a statement addressed to cinema chains in the nation on Tuesday. The films were The Wandering Earth (流浪地球), American Dreams in China (中国合伙人), Wolf Warrior 2 (战狼2), Wolf Totem (狼图腾), and Capernaum. The latter is the only foreign film of this group, a Lebanese feature that won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2018. The titles were available to purchase on March 20 at several re-opened theatres.
Variety also reportedly viewed screenshots listing the second wave of films set to be released in the region. They include Better Days (少年的你), Goodbye Mr Loser (夏洛特烦恼), White Snake (白蛇). Green Book, A Dog’s Purpose, and A Dog’s Journey.
Playing older movies in cinemas now would be the best option for Chinese cinemas as distributors crack their heads on the suitability of opening in this current climate. With the public still concerned about the Coronavirus, features such as Legend of Deification (姜子牙 ) and Vanguard which were postponed before the Chinese New Year holidays, have not given a concrete announcement on when their new release dates would be. As such, titles which were popular in the region may be a suitable catalyst in coaxing people back to the popcorn experience – A Dog’s Purpose earned 88.2 million USD during its run, The Wandering Earth grossed 690 million USD in China alone. It is a safe option, knowing that the public would warm up to familiar and well-received films, rather than speculating on a new release which might not necessarily make as many returns.
China Film Group stated that the initial batches of films “will be distributed in a charity model”, with studios forgoing their 43% profit from the films and the entire revenue being gained by cinemas. “We recommend that cinemas consider doing charitable, free screenings or low-cost screenings to benefit viewers”.
Cinema operators have been taking several cautionary measures amidst this regenerative phase by implementing temperature checks, placing masks and hand sanitizers at the venue, and even preparing an emergency quarantine room. The seat-spacing system is also being utilised with the current awareness of social distancing. As patrons gradually step out of their homes, the China Film Group also advised re-opened theatres to “consider doing charitable, free screenings or low-cost screenings to benefit viewers” in order to get seats filled again. More films will be announced as the situation gets better, with the report stating that Japanese flicks could be added into the mix.
Hollywood films such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Dolittle, Marriage Story, Little Women, and Bad Boys for Life also passed censorship as of late, so it is only a matter of time before they receive their slates on the Chinese schedule. This is a good omen and a good start, not just for China, but also for the rest of the film industry. The nation makes up a hefty piece of the global market. Having them out of the game has not been ideal for studios, but seeing that the nation is slowly recovering, Hollywood might just let out a little sigh of relief even as the rest of the global market is down and out.