Chinese box office down 27% from 2019
Chinese Box Office Turns to Movies Like “No Time to Die” and “The Battle of Changjin Lake” to End Four-Month Slump
With many blockbusters and specialty contenders, October is set to be a busy and successful month for the box office. It’s not just in the United States but also in China, where theaters are hoping that a mix of local and Hollywood blockbusters (but not Marvel movies) will shatter a months-long slump in cinema.
Just seven months ago, China was the envy of the global theater market, posting a record $ 1.2 billion in gross receipts during the Lunar New Year period from February 11 to 17. At the end of February, China recorded a box office of $ 2.3 billion for the first two months of the year, almost 5% ahead of the pace set before the 2019 pandemic. At a time when most of the rest of the world’s movie theaters had barely started to reopen, China seemed to be back to normal.
But since then, the Chinese box office has slowed down considerably. Currently, the year-to-date box office stands at $ 5.3 billion, about 27% below 2019 levels, according to Artisan Gateway. The last time overall weekend revenue in China exceeded $ 100 million was on the opening weekend of Universal’s “F9” movie “Fast & Furious” on May 21. (The film ended at $ 203.8 million in China.) As of May, however, the United States and Canada – around $ 1.9 billion – have surpassed the $ 1.6 billion reported by China during the same period.
There are several factors in this setback, the first being the one that hit theaters around the world: the Delta variant. China has seen an increase in COVID-19 infections, leading the government to adopt some of the toughest containment measures of any country in the world. This includes tightening capacity restrictions which reduced the maximum number of tickets sold on any given day.
But another factor, perhaps more important, is the lack of popular titles. In July, several major local blockbusters were due to air on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. But after Delta’s success, the most anticipated titles were pushed back to National Day on October 1. The first of these is “The Battle of Changjin Lake,” a nearly three-hour war epic about a key battle between the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army and the United States. during the Korean War. The film is slated for a theatrical release in China to rival the whopping $ 460 million total “The Eight Hundred” earned at the height of the pandemic last year.
Without films like “Lake Changjin”, only two films released since May have grossed nearly $ 200 million in China: “Chinese Doctors,” a dramatic account of how frontline medical workers in Wuhan have faced COVID-19 which grossed $ 197.1 million; and “Raging Fire,” a crime action film starring Donnie Yen that has grossed $ 194 million since its July 30 release.
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