Strongest Spring Festival film schedule promises yearly gain
Published: Jan 09, 2023 11:42 PM
Illustration: Liu Xidan/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Xidan/Global Times

A total of seven films are set to hit cinemas during the seven-day 2023 Chinese New Year holiday, the most lucrative period for domestic movies. Looking at the rich variety of genres about to hit big screens nationwide, it is clear that this will be the spark that lights the fuse leading to a strong resurgence for Chinese cinemas and the film industry in 2023. 

One highlight of the film period is its great variety of genres, covering sci-fi adventure, period suspense, sports drama, comedy and fantasy animation. The lineup includes five live-action films - the sequel to sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Full River Red, Hidden Blade starring Hong Kong veteran Tony Leung and Chinese mainland star Wang Yibo, Ping-Pong of China starring Deng Chao and the comedy Five Hundred Miles -  and two animated feature films, Deep Sea and Boonie Bears: Guardian Code.

The seven films cover all the most popular genres in the mainstream film market and have the potential to be some of the highest-earning films of the year, thus the lineup is being called "the strongest Chinese New Year film schedule in history."

"The films are bound to bring a festive spirit back to Chinese New Year. We are very confident in the performance of the film period," Chen Jin, a data analyst at Chinese ticketing platform Lighthouse, told the Global Times on Monday.

With the optimization of China's COVID-19 response, the entire film market has been making a comeback. The operation rate of theaters reached 84.45 percent on Sunday, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

Media reports that the number of travelers returning to hometown for the upcoming Chinese New Year is expected to recover to 70 percent of that in 2019, which is sure to benefit cinemas across the nation. 

While the three-year long COVID-19 pandemic eroded the movie-watching habit that theaters worked hard to foster in audiences, the 2023 Chinese New Year film period is set to turn this around. This is why the success of the period should not be measured in terms of the pure box office of a single movie, but rather in how well it encourages moviegoers to reenter cinemas and fall in love with movies again. 

The reopening of cinemas is an excellent opportunity for Chinese moviegoers to restart their tradition of catching a movie with family or friends to celebrate the holiday.

The Chinese New Year period has always been a battlefield for filmmakers. Traditionally, the Chinese New Year accounts for a significant portion of the annual box office and it is not unusual for the holiday's box-office champion to become highest earner of the year. 

Currently, The Wandering Earth 2 tops the most-anticipated list on Chinese movie ticketing platform Taopiaopiao, with more than 830,000 users wanting to watch it. The Wandering Earth became king of the box office during the 2019 Chinese New Year film period by grossing 4.69 billion yuan ($691.8 million).

Five Hundred Miles, the only comedy on the slate, could be a major player as the genre is a favorite of Chinese audiences during Chinese New Year. For instance, comedy Hi, Mom was the holiday winner in 2021, and for a time was the No.1 film of the year until it was surpassed by The Battle at Lake Changjin.

Film critic Jiang Yong told the Global Times on Monday that "the strong film slate" as well as reopening of Chinese theaters will definitely bring in more moviegoers. "The total box office of the Chinese New Year could reach 6 to 7 billion yuan." 

If the film slates for other major holidays such as the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day can be as strong as this one, the Chinese film market is guaranteed to see blue skies in 2023, Xiao Fuqiu, a film  critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday.

As the lights turn on at the end of a film, revealing that Chinese moviegoers have not abandoned cinemas, this will be the most beautiful moment for Chinese theaters and a great Chinese New Year for filmmakers in China.