Rising COVID-19 cases casts shadow over Chinese mainland box office, but timely preventive measures will allow for a return to normalcy
Published: Aug 10, 2021 07:01 PM
A poster of the film the Battle at Lake Changjin shows in a cinema. Photo: VCG

A poster of the film the Battle at Lake Changjin shows in a cinema. Photo: VCG

The 2021 summer film season in the Chinese mainland appears to have entered a "hopeless" stage after a surge in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant across the country led to the closure of cinemas and the postponement of films. However, while the postponement of highly anticipated blockbusters such as war film Changjin Hu (The Battle at Lake Changjin) may cast a shadow over the industry, it has been shown before that adhering to strict prevention measures is the quickest way to allow the industry to return to normal. 

On August 4, the China Film Administration announced that mainland cinemas in high-and medium-risk areas will be closed, while seat occupancy for those in low-risk areas will be reduced to 75 percent. 

The day after the notice was released, the Bona Group announced that it was delaying the release of this summer season's biggest blockbuster, big-budget epic film Changjin Hu, which was originally scheduled for release on Thursday, to "actively cooperate in epidemic prevention." 

Industry insiders called the sudden postponement of the epic film an early end of the summer season as it was seen by many as a potential savior to an already sluggish box office. Soon after, two other films - Water Boys and Little Canned Men - were also postponed. 

The summer season has faced several difficulties in 2021. In addition to the loss of Changjin Hu, the box office only reached 3.22 billion yuan ($496 million) in July, the worst record in eight years. Additionally, more than 3,000 cinemas have closed in response to the prevention notice. 

However, there is still hope even though it seems like the Chinese mainland box office has stepped into another "dark phase" following the closure of the entire industry in the spring of 2020. 

At the time, timely and well-planned prevention measures allowed the industry to quickly reopen in July 2020, and with that experience the industry is now more prepared than ever to cope with the potential dangers posed by COVID-19. 

Besides standard procedures such as scanning health codes, measuring temperatures and reducing seating capacity, venues are carrying out even more rigorous preventive measures such as cleaning key areas like ticket machines, public seats and bathrooms multiple times a day. 

Also, Chinese moviegoers remain passionate about film, especially when it comes to domestic made movies. 

The withdrawal of Changjin Hu has become hot topic on platforms such as Chinese media review platform Douban and China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Many netizens said they were happy to wait to see the film and others touted their belief in the Chinese film industry. 

"We had films like Hi, Mom after the pandemic. I believe in Chinese films," said one netizen on Sina Weibo, mentioning the hit Chinese New Year comedy that is the second highest-earning film in the Chinese mainland. 

"Good things always come to those who wait. I was only planning to watch Changjin Hu by myself, but now I want to take my whole family to watch it after the pandemic," Xintong, a moviegoer, told the Global Times on Tuesday.