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Return of the big screen: cinemas see strong box office on first day of reopening

By Xian Jiangnan (People's Daily Online)    15:07, July 21, 2020

Audience members at a cinema in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, watch a film on July 20. (Photo/ visual.people.cn)

“Everyone is saying that audiences missed the cinema, but we also missed the audiences!” Shi Yijing, an employee of the Tianshan Movie Theater in Shanghai, said with obvious joy on her face as the movie theater finally reopened after being closed for 178 days since Jan. 24.

Following an improvement in the COVID-19 pandemic situation, Chinese cinemas in low-risk areas were allowed to resume business in an orderly manner starting from July 20, with the effective implementation of prevention and control measures, the China Film Administration (CFA) announced on July 16.

The hashtag #CinemasReopen has garnered over 400 million views on social media platform Weibo.

The reopening of cinemas has been welcomed by Chinese people, especially passionate film-goers. The hashtag #CinemasReopen has garnered over 400 million views on social media platform Weibo. Yao Chen, a renowned Chinese actress, shared her joy on Weibo saying, “Welcome back to the world of movies!”

“People have been much more enthusiastic than we expected. The tickets quickly sold out shortly after sales began,” said Shi. Statistics show that on the first day of reopening, national box office takings exceeded 3.5 million yuan, with more than 138,000 tickets sold for over 8,600 screenings.

Safety first

An employee at the Capital Cinema disinfects a theater, July 20. (Photo by Weng Qiyu/People’s Daily Online)

Against the backdrop of epidemic prevention and control efforts, theater staff members like Shi are busier than before, as they are now required to follow a rigorous cleaning routine.

According to a document of specific guidelines released by the CFA, public areas such as lobbies, screening rooms, toilets and corridors must be disinfected at least twice a day. Armrests, 3D glasses and other objects that viewers come into direct contact with should be disinfected for each screening.

The CFA said daily screenings per venue must be half the usual number, with each screening no more than 2 hours in length and attendance for each showing capped at 30 percent of capacity.

All moviegoers must have their temperatures checked, show their health code and register their personal information. (Photo/China.org.cn)

All moviegoers must purchase tickets online with real-name reservations. Before entering, they must have their temperature checked, show their health code and register their personal information. Parties unknown to each other should be sold seats more than a meter apart.

Moreover, snacks and beverages are not allowed to be sold, and eating and drinking in the screening rooms is prohibited.

Enthusiasm remains

Most of the films released on Monday were classic films or art films, rather than big-budget blockbusters. “A First Farewell” was the first film released on Monday in China’s cinemas, with nearly 3,000 screenings, accounting for 30 percent of the total. A slew of Chinese and foreign classics such as “The Wandering Earth”, “The Pursuit of Happiness” and “Coco” have also seen strong box office takings.

In Chengdu Peace Cinema, parties unknown to each other are sold seats more than a meter apart.

Some cinemas have come up with special offers to attract more viewers. In Chengdu Peace Cinema, a total of 9 movies were screened on Monday, all of which were reruns, and the ticket price for each movie was 3.1 yuan.

A cinema in east China’s Jiangxi Province offered free movie tickets for moviegoers. “Today's [Monday] audience was dominated by young people as many students are on summer vacation,” said Hu Chenhui, a director at the cinema, adding that many customers took pictures in the lobby to mark the first day of cinemas reopening.

Despite the joy of being able to go back to business, the first batch of cinemas to reopen have to come under greater operating pressure, as screening and attendance are limited, and audience’s awareness of safety has not been fully restored, said Zhang Haiyan, General Manager of Zhongying Nanfang Movie Theatre.

A staff member disinfects 3D glasses. (Photo/China.org.cn)

Observers said that the reopening of cinemas was good news for the whole industry. The performance of cinemas on the first day was better than expected, signaling that the audiences’ love for cinema has not waned as a result of the epidemic. It is widely believed that more cinemas in more regions will reopen their doors as the epidemic situation further improves.

Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, said that audiences are waiting to fully release their passion for cinema, but whether they will or not depends on whether there are high-quality films. “The focus is how to effectively promote high-quality top films to hit the big screen in an orderly way as soon as possible to unleash people’s enthusiasm.”

Looking ahead, many have expressed their confidence in the future of Chinese film industry. The reopening of cinemas marks the first step of the film industry’s recovery, and the industry is sure to improve gradually, film distribution and marketing specialist Wang Jiayan noted. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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