Streaming giant to take on Spring Festival competition with PVoD release
Home for the holiday
Published: Jan 28, 2021 06:08 PM

Masked moviegoers see a film in Wuhan on January 22. Photo: IC

Promotional material for The Shaolin Temple: Legend of Debao Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

The newest film from Chinese star Wang Baoqiang and director Stanley Tong will be released on iQIYI's super movie channel as a Premium Video on Demand (PVoD) release on February 12, the very first day of China's Spring Festival, the Chinese streaming giant announced on Thursday. 

The Shaolin Temple: Legend of Debao will be the first new movie to debut online alongside seven new cinema releases during China's busiest movie season, which is set to see millions walk into the world's largest cinema chains and generate billions in box-office income. 

As China readies for the Spring Festival, a peak travel season and an important time for films as families head to cinemas to enjoy holiday blockbusters, increasingly strict COVID-19 safety measures are being implemented in many places across the country such as temperature screenings and capacity limits for public spaces such as cinemas. 

The PVoD model has been a source of hope for studios at home and abroad since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. A year ago, when Spring Festival films Detective Chinatown 3 and others had to postpone their releases due to the deadly virus, action star Donnie Yen's Enter the Fat Dragon set the example by becoming the first of these films to move to a PVoD release on iQIYI. Since then, the streaming giant has expanded the model through 10 more new movie releases as Chinese cinemas slowly recovered.  

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this model has become a global trend for new releases with Disney forgoing cinemas altogether by releasing Mulan as a PVoD on its Disney+ platform or other films, such as Freaky and Croods 2: A New Age, heading online weeks ahead of cinemas releases. 

Although PVoD has played only a small part so far in China's film industry as theaters have managed to reopen at reduced capacity back in July, it is still offering studios both big and small a new option to choose from amid the pandemic.  

"PVoD provides the movie industry with a new opportunity to establish a healthy ecosystem for online releases, which will benefit directors, filmmakers and studios," said Song Jia, a VP at iQIYI and head of the platform's film department. 

With the ghost of COVID-19 still hovering around in the whole world, it may be time to consider watching films at home as a serious alternative to cinemas.