Theatrical box office in the Asia-Pacific region tumbled a massive 85% in the first two months of the year. The coronavirus caused cinema closures, audience hesitation, and a halving of the number of film releases.
Asia is home to the five of the top ten cinema markets outside North America. According to data from the MPAA, China, Japan and South Korea were the three biggest international territories in 2019. India ranked sixth, and Australia tenth.
The figures from S&P Global Market Intelligence and OPUSData only cover January and February, a period when Asia was first feeling the Covid-19 impact. Local pointers suggest that March will be worse still.
S&P says that China was the worst hit, incurring a 96% decline year over year in January and February. That is because all of the country’s 70,000 cinemas were closed from late January, and the year’s most lucrative cinema-going period, the ten days of Chinese New Year vacations, did not take place. The two months saw just 24 new release titles in January and February, according to S&P data.
Cinemas began to close in South Korea in February, reportedly leading to a revenue boost for drive-in theaters. The country’s box office grossed $125 million in January and February, down 59% year over year, with the number of new releases falling 29%.
Data published Wednesday by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) shows March grosses falling to their lowest ever in the 14 years that the organization has been tracking daily data – even without mandatory cinema closures.
KOFIC said that just 1.83 million people went to the movies in March 2020, compared to 14.7 million admissions in the same month last year. Aggregate grosses were just $12.4 million. Ticket sales in February totaled just 7.37 million.
Japan posted $126 million in box office revenue, in January and February, a 41% drop, according to S&P.
Local box office analyst Hiroo Otaka estimates that Japan dropped 70% year-on-year in March, ordinarily a peak month because of the spring break holiday. A major reason for the plunge was the postposed releases of many big Hollywood movies. In a blog post on Wednesday, Otaka listed a total of 30 delayed films, both foreign and local.