China breaks box office records despite Coronavirus
China – and Chinese people across the globe – celebrated the New Year last Friday, on the 12th of February. The fifteen-day festivity will end on the 27th of February with the Lantern Festival. The holiday marks the end of winter, and the beginning of spring according to the folklore. Part of the festivities are the so called “reunion dinner”, where family members get together to celebrate, hoping for a prosperous new year, but all of this has changed because of the coronavirus.
Much like around the end of our last (solar) year, where Western cultures had to face some tough decisions to make regarding public health and safety to maintain quarantine rules, China (and the rest of Sinosphere) now has their own, very similar problem.
Similar to last year, public events have been cancelled, but currently there was only a warning issued to discourage family get-togethers, along with the prospect of two weeks of self-isolation and a Covid-19 test. In China, there are 300 million workers who spend most of their year away from their loved ones, employed at large metropolitan areas, waiting for the end of the lunar year to travel across the country to meet their families. One of the most popular ways to spend some time with them is going to the local cinema.
Authorities therefore decided that most movie theatres should only be opened at a 75% capacity, while others, in regions more affected by the pandemic, at only 50%.
Did the preventive measures force people to avoid this modern tradition? According to the numbers, no. Far from it, in fact. The first weekend of the holiday meant a $775 million in revenue for the Chinese box office, which is an all time record. The most profitable movie turned out to be the third instalment of the highly successful (in it’s home country at least) franchise “Detective Chinatown” with the staggering amount of $424 million. This means that this movie alone sold more than 55 million tickets!
“Hi Mom!” took second place, a time travelling family comedy, which turned out to be an unexpected hit, grossed $195 million.
Now, what should we make of all this? Were the Chinese people reckless? Or just desperate to escape? Were they just simply following the “tradition” and this is all part of the decade-long trend of the rising movie industry in the Communist country? Is it only a sign that the People’s Republic is back in business as they start to overcome the disease?
Let me not be the judge of that. But some things are for sure: as we concluded in a previous article, China doesn’t need Hollywood and the domestic market is able to satisfy its costumers. The US really needs to pick up the pace if they wish to compete with the emerging Asian powerhouse.
By the way, according to the Chinese calendar, the new year will be that of the (Metal) Ox. Astrologists are predicting a year with fewer hardships and even success. Whether you believe them, or not, we sure hope they are right.
Sources: apnews.com, scmp.com, rd.com, nytimes.com, variety.com