Overseas cinemas in Shanghai reopen amid COVID-19 with confidence in Chinese mainland market

By Chen Shasha and Huang Lanlan Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/20 14:04:56

A CGV cinema in Hongkou district of Shanghai on July 20 (photo: Yang Hui/GT)

Overseas-invested cinemas in Shanghai reopened on Monday after being closed for six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, welcoming audiences with disinfected public areas and cinema seats.

The local cinema employees of overseas cinema brands were thrilled when the reopening date was announced, because for many branches not based on the Chinese mainland, the reopening date is still unknown, as the virus continues to rage on in some countries, said some of the cinemas reached by the Global Times.

"I'm proud that China has done a good job in fighting against the virus, which gives foreign-invested theaters in China, like CGV, lots of confidence to resume our business," said Yang, a Shanghai-based employee with South Korea's largest multiplex chain, CGV.

Located in Shanghai's Jiading district, the CGV Anting cinema that Yang works for arranged 20 screenings on Monday, starting from 2:25 pm to 8:50 pm. Although it has sold only 84 tickets so far for all the scheduled films as of 11 am on Monday; that is, 5.3 percent of the day's total available tickets, Yang said she was still optimistic about the future of the cinema's attendance, especially on weekends.

Before the reopening, the cinema had received lots of calls from residents wondering when they would be able to come and watch a film, Yang said. "Some filmgoers said they can't wait to sit at the cinema and enjoy the big screens with their loved ones," she told the Global Times.

Local residents Yan Sifan and Cao Chengfan, who booked tickets for the animated film Coco at a CGV cinema in Hongkou district on Monday afternoon, said they were eager to experience the long-lost feeling of watching a film at an actual cinema on the first day of reopening.

"We can't find many big differences between overseas-invested theaters and domestic ones," they told the Global Times in front of the cinema on Monday. "But we chose this cinema today as it has a good environment, new sound equipment, and it is close [to our homes]."

Yan and Cao were surprised by the price of their tickets as they were only 20 yuan ($2.86) each - much lower than the cinema's regular price (more than 50 yuan) before the pandemic. To attract local audiences, many overseas cinema chains in Shanghai have lowered their ticket prices to between 15-35 yuan for the first week back, the Global Times reporter found on the online booking platform dazhongdianping.com.

PALACE, a cinema brand under the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's theater chain Broadway Circuit (BC), reopened seven of its nine stores in Shanghai on Monday. The remaining two will welcome audiences on Friday, according to the executive manager, surnamed Rong, at PALACE Wanxiangcheng store in Shanghai's Minhang district.

BC's 13 cinemas in Hong Kong, by contrast, are currently undergoing a 14-day lockdown, between 15 and 28 July, according to the city's local prevention and disease control regulations, said the BC's website.

The largely improved epidemic situation in the cities on the Chinese mainland has reassured the mainland employees of the Hong Kong brand, including Rong. "I'm confident that soon our cinema will be full of movie lovers again," he told the Global Times, adding that almost all the tickets for his cinema's Monday night films at 7:30 pm had already sold out.

One cinema lover, Sun, who watched the Chinese movie White Snake at an overseas-invested cinema in downtown Shanghai on Monday, said he plans to rush to the cinema for the first time as several delayed blockbusters that he had been waiting are now released.

"Mulan, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984...there are lots of movies that I'm desperately looking forward to watching at the cinemas," Sun told the Global Times.

At present, cinemas on the Chinese mainland are required to ensure the size of their audience do not exceed 30 percent of the normal capacity and they must leave empty seats between individual viewers to mitigate risks and avoid possible virus transmission. Rong said his cinema is disinfected every hour for the health of the audience.

Audiences in Shanghai told the Global Times that they are not worried about the spread of the virus as it has been under complete control in the city. "I believe it's safe to go to the cinemas now since there have been no [local confirmed] cases for months," said Yan and Cao.

Many overseas-invested cinemas in Chinese mainland, including CGV and PALACE, have been closed since January 23 due to the pandemic. The past six months were hard for the industry's numerous employees, Yang said, adding that her salary was reduced by more than a half during the lockdown period.

"It was difficult for some staffers who have to raise kids or pay rent with reduced salaries," Yang told the Global Times, adding that a few of her coworkers at the cinema worked part-time jobs to pay the bills.

As of Monday, all of the overseas-invested cinemas that the Global Times talked to have resumed 100-percent working capacity.

"None of the employees were fired or have resigned in these months," Yang said. "We've overcome the hardest of times together, and we are optimistic that in the future, our audience numbers will get better and better."


blog comments powered by Disqus