Soaring Chinese New Year’s box office boosts China replacing US as the world's largest film market
Soaring revenue boosts China replacing US as the world's largest film market
Published: Feb 17, 2021 05:53 PM

Cinema Photo: VCG  

With millions of Chinese people remaining in place over the seven-day Spring Festival holidays to reduce travel, watching a movie became the first choice for people's so-called revenge consumption (spending to make up for lost time) since the 2020 Spring Festival was disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Chinese domestic box office recorded arguably its best peak season during this Chinese New Year holidays, exceeding 7 billion yuan ($1.08 billion) in revenue under seven days. The data provides a boost to China replacing the US as the world's largest film market last year.

Real-time data from online ticket platform Dengta showed that Chinese cinemas had raked in more than 7 billion yuan as of 9pm Tuesday - the fifth day of the Year of the Ox. The data includes the presale tickets.

It's also the fifth day in a row that the country's box office exceeded 1 billion yuan, according to the platform.

Among the most popular movies, the box office for new release Detective Chinatown 3, the latest installment in a popular slapstick comedy franchise by Wanda Pictures, exceeded 3.36 billion yuan as of Tuesday night, while that for Hi, Mom exceeded 2.2 billion yuan, according to Dengta.

The data followed the outstanding performance on Friday, the first day of the Chinese New Year, with a record of 1.7 billion yuan 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.

It's worth noting that the data came as cinemas across the country imposed strict measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, which included a cap on cinema audience size. 

Even in large cities like Beijing, which recently lowered the theater occupancy rate from 75 percent to 50 percent due to stricter protection requirements failed to perturb cinema goers.

During the Spring Festival holidays, authorities called for the public to reduce travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many believe that these measures contributed to the record of Chinese box office as more people celebrate the festival by going to movies, analysts said. 

Another reason behind the new records is the rise in average ticket prices. 

Statistics from Chinese ticket platform Maoyan showed that the average price of a ticket during the holidays is 50 yuan nationwide, much higher than the 35-to-40-yuan average price prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

For example, the price of a ticket for Detective Chinatown 3 at a Wanda cinema in Chaoyang district, Beijing was prices at 95.9 yuan, the regular price the day after the week long holiday concluded was only 40 yuan.

The Chinese box office's roaring start during the crucial Lunar New Year holiday was in stark contrast to US movie market as the majority of cinemas remain closed in North America during the still raging pandemic. 

CNN reported that local box office takings over the start of the Lunar New Year holidays have already surpassed those of the same period in 2019, despite some restrictions on theater occupancy. The increase gives China another lift after it overtook the US to become the world's top movie market last year.

Moviegoers at a cinema in Beijing on Friday, the frst day of Year of the Ox. Photo: CFP

The first movie-going peak season following heavy losses seen by many domestic movie companies, this Spring Festival holidays is of great importance to the industry's recovery and also offers a vivid testament to the country's steady recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Several Chinese filmmakers earlier preannounced their 2020 financial results, with heavy losses across the board after being hit badly by the pandemic. Wanda Cinemas posted the largest loss of 7 billion yuan.

Aside from Wanda, China Film Co posted loss for the first time since its debut on Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2016, with loss ranging from 465 to 675 million yuan, according to the company's statement.

The big holiday is usually a peak season for Chinese cinemas. The 2021 Chinese New Year holidays - against the background of encouraging people to stay put as well as the country's effective control of the outbreak - is expected to be a golden opportunity for the impacted movie sector, and offers insight into the Chinese people's confidence in the country's virus prevention and control, observers said.

Film industry revenue has been on a steady upward trend from the second half of 2020 onward. National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2020, the operating income of cultural and related industry enterprises above designated size increased by 2.2 percent, of which the film industry contributed to the growth.

Film stocks climbed higher as on Tuesday Alibaba Pictures Group, the film company under Alibaba, saw its price in the Hong Kong stock market up by more than 34 percent. Maoyan Entertainment rose as much as 9 percent. Shares of Imax China Holding surge by around 90 percent.

Global Times