Nearly all (97%) of the people surveyed have been watching movies at home. After being cooped up for weeks, more than half (54%) are more keen than they were before the hiatus to watch films again in theaters.
Mainland China’s cinemas were closed at the end of January, as part of nationwide measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. That wiped out the Chinese New Year season in which the biggest tentpole films of the year are released. Cinemas have remained closed ever since, resulting in lost box office estimated at $2 billion.
There is no official word yet on when Chinese cinemas will be allowed to reopen, though the country is now slowly returning to work, and new virus infection cases have fallen steeply. Some optimists have suggested that cinemas could open in early April. Others suggest that they could remain shuttered until late May or June.
One cinema in sparsely-populated Xinjiang reopened on Monday, playing ten sessions and offering tickets at a steep discount. But it had no customers all day. State media reported that two other complexes in Xinjiang reopened on Tuesday.
Maoyan, which says its survey was conducted between Jan. 21 and Feb. 22, but does not disclose the polling method or its sample size, says that respondents watched seven movies during the period, for an average of one every four days.
“About 81% of respondents watched movies through platforms operated by Baidu, Tencent, or Alibaba (iQiyi, Tencent Video and Youku), and 44% chose ByteDance platforms, including TikTok, Xigua Video, and Toutiao,” Maoyan said.
“Lost in Russia,” produced by a company which has ownership links to Maoyan, was one of the most popular, the company said. “Russia” caused a sensation when it quickly ditched its planned Chinese New Year theatrical release, and opted for a straight to online outing instead. It remains the highest profile Chinese movie to break the theatrical window.
Survey results were also reported as showing disaster movies, such as “The Flu,” “Contagion” and “The Captain,” to be among the most popular.
Curiously, Maoyan said that Oscar-winning films including “Parasite,” “1917,” and “Joker” were also “widely searched and watched.” It is not clear if all three have received censorship approval. Certainly, none have had a theatrical release in China.
Quite when audiences will return to theaters remains unclear. The Maoyan information suggests that audiences are equally divided between an immediate return, waiting for an official all-clear, and those preferring a further wait.