China’s box office might have lost as much as RMB 1.5 billion ($214 million) in the first two months of this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, but a nationwide resumption of movie theaters and production is unlikely to happen any time soon.
“Judging from the current situation, the film industry is not equipped to resume business yet, and we have not approved industry’s demands to resume business as of now,” said Chen Bei, deputy secretary general of the Beijing municipal government.
Local data company Ent Group has estimated that box-office receipts in January and February have totaled only RMB 220 million ($31.3 million), compared to RMB 1.45 billion ($217 million) in the same period in 2019 and RMB 1.51 billion ($241.6 million) in 2018.
Ent Group estimated the decline in box office could be as high as RMB 1.5 billion ($214 million) due to the fact that the Lunar New Year holiday season started on Jan. 25, much earlier compared with the usual beginning of or mid-February. “An early holiday season should’ve given more time for the box office to grow,” the report said.
But cinemas were forced to shut down just before the Lunar New Year holiday and Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province were locked down on Jan. 23.
The estimated figures came after the release of a joint directive from Beijing Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, and Beijing Municipal Film Bureau on Feb. 26, which stipulates strict guidelines for cinema operators and film crews if they wish to resume business.
Cinema operators must seek approval from the authorities to re-open movie theaters and adopt stringent measures such as selling tickets on alternate rows, requiring movie-goers to register with their real names and personal details, and auditoriums to be thoroughly disinfected after each screening.
Film crews with less than 50 people can resume filming in Beijing if they are approved, but only if their body temperature does not exceed 37.3 degree celsius. All film crew members must wear masks throughout the production, except for performers.
But film crews with more than 50 people will not be allowed to resume filming in Beijing until the plague is gone. Crew members travelling from affected areas such as Hubei province are not allowed to take part in any production in the city.
Ent Group added in the report that cinemas in China are not likely to re-open in March. As of March 2, Covid-19 has already infected more than 80,000 in mainland China and killed 2,914 people.