New Year holidays box-office champion’s artificial snow in theater prompts concerns
Published: Jan 02, 2024 10:30 PM
Moviegoers check in at a cinema in Dongguang, South China's Guangdong Province on December 14. Photo: VCG

Moviegoers check in at a cinema in Dongguang, South China's Guangdong Province on December 14. Photo: VCG

The three-day New Year holidays (December 30, 2023, to January 1, 2024) witnessed a record-breaking box office of 1.533 billion yuan ($215 million), with romance film Shining For One Thing standing under the spotlight with a total of 608 million yuan and clinching the title of champion. 

However, the film's "snow scene" marketing strategy, which uses artificial snow to replicate scenes from the movie at certain screenings, has ignited controversy.

The movie tells a love story set in a parallel timeline of a popular TV series, in which one protagonist softly utters, "Zhang Wansen, it's snowing." This iconic line became the creative origin of the film's "snow scene." 

During the promotional phase, the film's producers announced a special screening event for the holidays. A specially designed "snow scene" event took place in some theaters, allowing audiences to enjoy a romantic snowfall while watching the film. The marketing slogan, "You are the first snow when you're around," added to the allure of this "snow scene."

To implement this, the producers selected 1,314 cinemas nationwide to host screenings of this "snow scene" version of the film. They used handheld snow sprayers to make the "snow scene" a reality.

The "snow scene" marketing initiative resulted in a strong market response. According to media reports, beyond the 1,314 designated cinemas, numerous theaters independently organized their own "snow scene" screenings. Some even purchased snow machines to enhance the romantic atmosphere, leading to a shortage of artificial snow machines in certain regions.

However, the hashtag "Snow Scene Embarrassment" began trending on Sina Weibo shortly after the film's premiere. Some moviegoers were unaware of the special screening and expected to quietly enjoy a film only to find themselves covered in "snow." Some fans expressed disappointment, feeling that the experience fell short of the expected romance and left them damp, adversely affecting their viewing pleasure. Additionally, these manmade snowflakes floated everywhere, even onto the screen, making it difficult to remove the stains.

The manmade snow not only contaminated audience members' popcorn and beverages but also posed a cleanup challenge for cinema staff.

The most contentious issue, however, was the flammability of the artificial snow sprayed from the handheld devices, posing a potential fire hazard in the enclosed cinema environment, some said.

While the film undeniably achieved success in terms of box-office revenue, the controversies surrounding the "snow scene" underscored the importance of not just financial gains but also delivering quality content for the audience's enjoyment. 

One moviegoer recounted to the Global Times her confusion when attending a cinema in Beijing's Chaoyang district on Saturday. Despite purchasing tickets for another film, the ticket mentioned that the screening hall was called "Zhang Wansen, it's snowing." 

Before implementing such marketing strategies, it is crucial for producers to clearly communicate and label participating cinemas and screenings during the promotional phase. This allows audiences to make informed choices about the screenings they want to attend.

Additionally, considerations should extend beyond financial gains to factors such as enhancing the audience's viewing experience.

Ultimately, safety should be the foremost concern. Placing box-office success above safety compromises the integrity of the film industry. 

After all, the essence of a successful movie lies not only in its revenue but also in its content and reputation.

Global Times