Film Stocks Up as China Heads Back to the Movies

Chinese cinema operators lighted their screens on Monday after six long months.
Belinda ZhouJul 21,2020,06:55

Chinese theatrical film market cheered up on Monday to resume its business under stringent guidances after six months of nationwide closures.

As of 20:50 on July 20, the country's comprehensive box office reached 3.4 million yuan($500,000), according to official data from Office of the National Special Fund Management Committee for Film Development.

Shares in the country's filmmaking companies slightly recovered from the previous financial depression. 

Shenzhen-listed Wanda Film Holding Co jumped 1% on Monday. The Chinese film giant reported an expected loss of up to 1.6 billion yuan($229 million) in the first half-year with a comparison of a 524 million yuan($75 million) profit for the same time last year. Shares in Zhejiang Talent soared 7% on Monday and Shenzhen-listed Guangzhou Jinyi Media also jumped 2% after the nearly six months of closure. 

For small and medium-sized operators, more than 13,000 film and television-related companies have canceled registration in the national online enterprise system as of mid-June.

Cinemas in China reopened with screenings of Wang Lina’s award-winning film at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival.  “A First Farewell,” which is a story about a young Muslim boy learns about the pain of saying goodbye, kicked off its national premiere on Monday.

The China Film Administration had announced on July 16 that “low-risk” zones, most of the country, would be allowed to reopen cinemas at 30% seating capacity. Other restrictions for cinemas included the screen time should be capped at two hours and the number of movies shown per venue can not exceed half of its previous volumes.

For audiences, one-meter social distance and masks are required while temperatures will be taken upon entering.

Movie theaters in the world's second-biggest theatrical film market have been shut down since January 23 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 20, 500 cinema groups were allowed to resume operations, but the film administration closed them down again on March 27.

Chinese viewers showed great enthusiasm for the approaching the Shanghai Film Festival, which is scheduled to be held from July 25 to August 2. According to statistics from the TaoTou ticket platform, more than 100,000 tickets have been issued within the first 10 minutes.

A survey in May showed that most of the theaters expected to reopen within 2020. Half of the theaters believe that it will take at least three to six months to resume the normal business before the pandemic after the reopening, and 37% of theaters believe that it will take more than half a year, according to Cinema Survival Survey from China Film Association.

The country's box offices hit in $9.2 billion in 2019, up 5% year-over-year, while North America remained as the world's leader in terms of box office revenues with a 4% decline in 2019.