China Box Office Wiped Out as Government Expands Virus Response Measures

Measures to limit travel and the closure of most cinemas almost completely eliminated box office takings in China on what should have been the country’s busiest movie-going weekend of the year. The pain is set to continue.

The Chinese government extended the current public holidays by an additional three days as a means to slow the nationwide spread of the deadly coronavirus. In a directive from the central government’s State Council, it was announced on Monday that the Chinese New Year (aka Spring Festival) holidays, which had been scheduled to end on Thursday Jan 30, will now continue until the end of Sunday, Feb. 2. Schools and stockmarkets will also remain closed until Feb. 2.

The annual holidays are synonymous with city dwellers returning to their home towns in rural areas, and account for some 600 million journey within the space of a week. Family outings to the cinema have also become a modern feature of Chinese New Year holidays. But the cancellation of the release of all seven tentpole movies has meant theatrical business has been wiped out.

Aggregate revenues for the top ten titles still available on Saturday, Jan 25, were just $1.12 million, according to figures from local data provider Ent Group. On Sunday the trickle of business halved again, to a total of just $510,000.

Popular on Variety

Last year, the first day of Chinese New Year saw $200 million earned by the top eight films by mid evening. The total box office intake for the Feb. 4-10, 2019 lunar new year period reached RMB5.83 billion ($860 million), according to data from online ticketing platform Maoyan.

Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, and a dozen other cities have been isolated in an attempt to halt the spread of the infection, which has claimed 80 lives.

China’s National Health Commission said on Monday that 2,744 people are known to have been infected and 80 killed. There were 688 new cases confirmed on Saturday, and 769 new cases on Sunday.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang is to head a high-level task force charged with responding to the outbreak. He visited Wuhan on Monday.

The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, and Wuhan Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang have offered to resign, due to the unpopularity of the city’s lockdown measures.

But the lockdown moves may have been started too late. Some news reports say that 5 million people left Wuhan before the quarantine measures took effect on Thursday morning.

On Sunday, China also announced an indefinite ban on wildlife trading. The disease is believed to have crossed over from animals, most likely bats, to humans. It now appears to be capable of human-to-human transmission, and that, like influenza, it can be infectious and transmitted before a sufferer shows any symptoms.

More Film

  • Heavy Security at Cannes Film Festival

    Coronavirus in Cannes? Festival Monitoring 'Carefully' as First Case Confirmed

    The Cannes Film Festival has addressed the spread of coronavirus in Europe, mere hours after news broke on Friday of Cannes’ first case. “The Festival de Cannes is monitoring carefully the developments and the latest guidelines provided by the local, national and international authorities regarding the coronavirus, and is in direct link with the Alpes-Maritimes’ [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Think Cinema Lausanne's Vincent Perez on Why We Create Art

    In 2018, Swiss actor-director Vincent Perez teamed up with the Cinémathèque Suisse, the country’s premiere film archive, to launch a heritage film festival in the actor’s hometown of Lausanne. For its first edition, the event ran under the title r7al – the Rencontres 7e Art Lausanne – and was rebranded Think Cinema Lausanne the following [...]

  • 'Charlatan' Review: Agnieszka Holland Shows Faith

    'Charlatan': Film Review

    At several points in “Charlatan,” the camera looks glossily on as our protagonist holds small bottles of amber liquid to the light, academically scrutinizing their contents as they beam a light golden glow onto his features: an effect both ennobling and almost romantic. The man is Jan Mikolášek, a famous Czech herbalist and healer with [...]

  • Toho Cinemas at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya

    Japanese Cinemas To Refund Tickets in Virus Response

    In response to the coronavirus crisis, the Japanese film industry has begun to delay releases, close theaters and refund ticket purchases. The releases of the new “Doraemon” and “Jimaro” feature animations targeted at kids out of school for the spring break, have been delayed. The former was scheduled to open March 6, the latter on [...]

  • Blood on Her Name

    Film Review: ‘Blood on Her Name’

    In the opening moments of “Blood on Her Name,” an arrestingly twisty and suspenseful Southern noir thriller in the tradition of “One False Move,” we’re introduced to Leigh, the working-class protagonist played by Bethany Anne Lind, with a jarring close-up that is at once explicit and ambiguous. Her face is battered, her breathing is labored, [...]

  • Liev Schreiber Broadway

    Film News Roundup: Liev Schreiber Joins Will Smith's Tennis Drama 'King Richard'

    In today’s film news roundup, Liev Schreiber and retired pro footballer Vernon Davis score roles, Jason Blum will speak at his alma mater, Irish drama “Rialto” finds a U.S. distributor and “1917” hits a box office milestone. CASTINGS Liev Schreiber will portray tennis coach Paul Cohen in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard” opposite Will Smith. Reinaldo [...]

  • AMC theater

    AMC Entertainment Reports Mixed Fourth-Quarter Results

    AMC Entertainment has reported mixed fourth-quarter results, which saw revenues rise 2.4% to $1.45 billion, despite a 4.4% drop in U.S. attendance to 62.3 million. The exhibitor, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, announced a fourth-quarter loss of $13.5 million, compared to a year-earlier profit of $170.6 million, due to $84.3 million of expense related to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content