China's box office starts the Year of the Ox breaking daily world record post COVID-19
Published: Feb 12, 2021 08:16 PM

Photo: VCG

China's box office on Friday, the first day of the Chinese New Year, set a new record for the daily box office of China's film market and broke the single-day box office record for a single market in the world, as people flocked to cinemas while many chose to stay put for the Chinese New Year holidays to avoid a sudden flare-up of COVID-19.

According to Chinese ticket platform Maoyan, Chinese cinemas raked in more than 1.7 billion yuan ($263 million) in sales as of press time on Friday night - the first day of the Year of the Ox. 

The Spring Festival holiday is a peak season for Chinese cinema screens. The previous single-day record, 1.43 billion yuan, was set during Spring Festival in 2019.

As the first such moviegoing peak period following the COVID-19 outbreak, this year's Spring Festival holiday is of great importance to China's film industry and is seen as a further mark of recovery in the box office market and also reveals Chinese people's confidence in the country's virus prevention and control, observers said. 

Many Chinese people who did not return home for family reunions but stayed where they were chose to celebrate the festival by hitting the cinemas, and the tickets of the top three popular movies have largely been sold out in theaters in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai on Friday and Saturday. 

Detective Chinatown 3. Photo: VCG

In Beijing, Friday's tickets for Detective Chinatown 3 and Hi, Mom in several business districts including Guomao and Sanlitun were almost sold out by Friday noon, and tickets are also booked out for Saturday. 

A Beijing resident surnamed Lu told the Global Times on Friday that she has not seen such crowds in cinemas for a long time since the start of the pandemic. 

"Despite there being a 50 percent cap on viewers, I bet every available ticket was sold. If you just hang out and want to pick a random film to kill the time, it is impossible because there are no tickets left," Lu said. 

Lu bought a ticket for A Writer's Odyssey on February 1, not long after pre-sales for Spring Festival opened on January 29.

A staffer at a cinema in Beijing's Chaoyang district, who only gave his surname as Liu, said although pandemic control measures will affect box office performances, Spring Festival is a strong impetus for the market and some works have been long awaited.

"This Spring Festival holiday is actually better than any of the previous ones because moviegoers stayed in Beijing," Liu said. 

Photo: VCG

Observers noted that in previous years cinemas in small cities were more crowded than in cities like Beijing and Shanghai during Spring Festival when moviegoers returned home. But small cities' numbers of screens could barely meet all the demand. However this year, crowds were seen in all different tiers of cities, which contributed to the box office record, observers said. 

Detective Chinatown 3 premiered and made it to the top of China's box office on Friday, with sales exceeding 1 billion yuan by Friday afternoon. 

The highly anticipated comedy was originally set to be released during the same holiday a year ago but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Some Chinese netizens said watching the movie that they failed to watch last year was a kind of relief after a year's battle against COVID-19.

"The film with its reasoning, friendship and love is what we missed last year, I am glad we can continue it this year. Wish lots of love and laughter are a part of everyone's life," a netizen said.

The six other films opening on Friday were time travel comedy Hi, Mom, fantasy thriller A Writer's Odyssey, mobile game turned fantasy film The Yinyang Master, comedy-drama Endgame, animated fantasy New Gods: Nezha Reborn, and Boonie Bears: The Wild Life, which is the latest installment in the domestic animated comedy franchise.

Hi, Mom ranked second on the sales chart, recording a box office revenue of over 279 million yuan as of Friday night.