Today, July 20th, China is set to re-open select cinemas in areas deemed “low-risk” for the coronavirus, with Beijing and the surrounding Beijing Area not being one of them. Due to the wet market in Xifandi, which they first blamed on salmon from Norway (in an attempt to claim it as “foreign / imported” cases) that turned out to be blatantly false.
How many movie theater, screens, and “low-risk” cities will be rolled out in the beginning of this test-run is unclear, but what is clear is the Chinese Regulators are testing Hollywood films first before any local films that had been delayed due to the pandemic – so that they do not lose money.
With the first two films being Sony’s Bloodshot and Universal’s Doolittle on the 24th, both which bombed in North America and Bloodshot recouping “some” of its money by moving from theaters to PVOD (premium video-on-demand for $19.95 streaming rental), and Amblim’s Oscar winner 1917 opening one-week later.
By Ryan Carroll, Managing Editor
“Medium and High-Risk” areas for the coronavirus, even if they do not have outbreaks, will not be allowed to re-open their cinemas but the China Film Administration is allowing provisional authorities to determine which cities in their area are deemed “low-risk”.
This is possibly to allow for any deniability for Beijing if there is any spread of the virus that could potentially be linked back to a cinema, or if there is another outbreak in any of those “low-risk” cities. Placing the culpability out of the hands of the state authorities and into the local ones.
China is taking what appears to be appropriate measures to reopen their box-office with rules that include; a 30% cap on seating capacity per screen, and a 50% reduction from the usual number of screenings held per day per cinema. Along with, no concessions being sold, temperature scans upon entry, and mandatory masks throughout the entire show.
The standout measure that the Chinese Film Adminstration is taking, that will not likely happen in North America is, no cinemas can book any movies with run-times over two hours. Which has excluded Christopher Nolan’s Tenet from screening in at the China Box-Office next month, as according to the run-time from the South Korean rating board it is listed at 150 minutes.
This is a major blow for Tenet as:
Nolan’s last three films earned between 8 percent and 18 percent of their worldwide totals in the country. “Interstellar,” was the top performer; it grossed $122 million of its $668 million worldwide take.Indiewire
But, analyst are even predicting that Tenet may be pushed back yet again, as cases and unemployment are spiraling out of control across the U.S. in many States, to September.
Scott Mendelson of Forbes article does a good break down, a few days ago when the news was announced that the China Box-Office was reopening today, of why Bloodshot, Doolittle, and 1917, where going to being the first Hollywood films out the gate. There is something specific about these three films for why they have special status to be released first, among all the Hollywood films, that he has overlooked.
Though he does make excellent and valid points on why these films were selected over other Hollywood entries; namely Vin Diesel and Robert Downey Jr. are two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, with the Fast and Furious / XxX franchises, and Iron Man / MCU / Sherlock Holmes franchises, and a fare share of Oscar / WWII films that have done well in China.
His analysis are on-point, but the reason why these three films are the first Hollywood films released compared to other films that were slated, or approved, back in January before the coronavirus cinema closure for six-months. Such as Oscar fare Little Women, Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story, or tentpoles Sonic the Hedgehog and Bad Boys for Life, is because either these films are financed by Chinese companies Dolittle (Perfect World Pictures) and 1917 (Alibaba Pictures), or they are flat out owned by a Chinese company, Bloodshot (based on Valiant Comics, a division of Valiant Entertainment owned by China’s DMG Entertainment).
It will be interesting to see if Chinese flock back to movie theaters to watch a couple of Hollywood films or if they will stick to their streaming services, in fear of future coronavirus outbreaks.
One thing is certain. Beijing is not willing to risk their own country’s big budget films on testing out if their citizens are willing to go back to sit in front of the silver screens or not. Only Hollywood films, even those with Chinese equity behind them; especially DMG Ent. or as it’s known in China as Yinji Entertainment & Media Company. With “ST YINJI” listed as “Special Treatment” on the Shenzhen stock exchange, a warning to investors from regulators that this stock is been labeled as “high risk.” After its three owners, two Chinese and Dan Mintz, and American, played Icarus and flew to high to the sun.
As China has lost 93% of the YoY box-office from this time last year, but they are not the only one as the entire worldwide cinema is down and out. This is the first time in American history that cinemas have been close, except for drive-in which has kept the American box-office alive. Wanda Film has recently stated it may lose $226MMUSD even if the box-office opens at this time period, and earlier reports indicated 40%+ of cinemas have already permanently closed.
China is hoping for October 1st to have cinemas across China going again so that they may roll out their Red Liberation Cinema films, aka Main Melody Films, for the National Day of China, which is one of its biggest box-office holidays. If it cannot, then the box-office will not be able to recoup for the rest of the year.
UPDATE: Dolittle took the top stop over the weekend with $3.2MMUSD followed by Bloodshot at $1.7MMUSD over the two-days, according to data from Maoyan, and PIXAR’s Coco andDisney’s Zootopia rounded out the fourth and fifth place in re-releases. Beijing had some cinema open on the 24th and it was reported about 40% of the cinemas across China were screening films.
Stay Tuned China Watchers!
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About the Author
Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.