Coronavirus threatens Chinese box office during Spring Festival

By Chen Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/22 17:28:41

A Xingmei cinema is shut down in North China's Tianjin. Photo: VCG

China's top movie ticketing platform announced on Wednesday that customers in Wuhan can refund their movie tickets to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"Customers in Wuhan who bought tickets for films scheduled to be released during the Spring Festival can apply for unconditional refunds. To those who are not in Wuhan and want to refund their tickets, we will try our best to coordinate with the cinemas and minimize the loss to our customers," read the announcement from Taopiaopiao's Sina Weibo account.

The announcement came after many Chinese netizens took to social media to express their concern that going to the cinema might increase the risk of infection.

"Cinemas are high-risk areas for virus infection because of their confined space with a large number of people. Reducing going out could be an option for people to avoid infection," Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Shi said the coronavirus will hurt the box office of films to be shown during the Spring Festival season.

Liu Min, a college student from Central China's Hunan Province, told the Global Times she and her friends refunded their tickets for Detective Chinatown Vol. 3 due to the spread of the mysterious respiratory virus. "The environment is where people are most likely to be infected. Although our ticket fee is nonrefundable, we still think safety is priority," she said. 

According to the pre-sales box office of Maoyan, another ticketing platform, all the films' pre-sales box offices show a decline, including the film Lost in Russia, whose pre-sales box office dropped from a peak of 33.71 million yuan ($4.88 million) on Saturday to 84,000 yuan on January 29.

The Spring Festival is usually a harvest season for Chinese box office as going to the cinema is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Maoyan data shows the 2019 Spring Festival box office reached 10.4 billion yuan, or 26 percent of the entire year and the highest of all festival seasons, the Xinhua News Agency reported.


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