Beijing is set to reopen cinemas again in its “low-risk areas” on Friday, July 24, officials said, but attendance will be capped at 30% and no concessions sold.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been no new local confirmed cases in the capital for 15 consecutive days, meaning that all parts of the capital are currently classified as low-risk, the official Xinhua news agency cited local health officials as saying.
Beijing is home to 262 cinemas, all of which have been shut due to COVID-19 since the Chinese new year holiday in late January. The announcement that they could resume business “in an orderly manner” was made at a press conference Tuesday afternoon by Wang Jiequn, deputy director of the municipal Propaganda Department and director of the municipal film bureau.
Those venues wishing to resume operations on Friday must report their intentions to the Beijing Film Bureau before noon on Thursday. “Each cinema can determine its own specific opening time based on its pandemic prevention measures in place and its own current situation,” said a document issued Tuesday by the body outlining new rules for theaters.
Beijing cinemas must operate according to the same guidelines as those previously laid out by the National Film Bureau.
Attendance will be capped at 30% of maximum capacity, and only half the number of screenings typically shown during a “normal period” may be shown. Screenings cannot exceed two hours long, and at least a half hour of time must be scheduled between each session for disinfection.
Viewers must have their temperature checked before entering and be able to show a clean bill of health via QR code. All tickets must be pre-purchased online via real-name reservation systems and distributed via contactless methods on-site. Seats must be located at least a meter apart from each other.
The addition of Beijing’s theaters to the current roster of venues in regions at low risk for coronavirus that have reopened since Monday could add a much-needed boost to the box office, which has so far been lackluster.
National aggregate box office for Tuesday was just $645,000 (RMB4.5 million), only a slight uptick from Monday’s $501,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, Chinese crime thriller “Sheep Without a Shepherd” — now on its third run in theaters, after debuting in December and screening in a very limited fashion when some cinemas briefly attempted to reopen in March — was the top-selling film, beating Pixar’s “Coco,” which came in second.
Nine films are set to release on Friday as China heads into its first proper post-COVID opening weekend. Headlining will be the China premieres of “Dolittle” and “Bloodshot,” accompanied by re-releases of Disney’s “Zootopia,” Dennis Quaid-starring “A Dog’s Journey,” Lebanese drama “Capernaum,” and the two-part classic Hong Kong comedy based on the “Journey to the West” story, Jeffrey Lau’s 1995 “A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box” and “A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella,” starring Stephen Chow.
Only two small titles are from mainland China. No big local blockbusters have proven willing to set a release date yet, and tired re-runs of recent Chinese titles have not been met with much enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s culture and tourism bureau announced Tuesday that performance venues, Karaoke venues (KTVs) and internet cafes may now also resume operations. Performance halls must cap attendance at 30% of maximum capacity, while KTVs, amusement parks, internet cafes and other entertainment venues cannot exceed 50%. Other than parks, venues should not let patrons linger longer than two hours.
Sports venues and gyms are also now allowed to reopen, the city’s sports authorities said Tuesday, but sporting events cannot exceed 500 people, including staff and spectators. Athletes arriving in Beijing from mid- and high-risk regions must provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result before participating in games.
Gyms and fitness venues may only operate at 50% capacity. Patrons must book online ahead of time, accept temperature checks to enter and show a green QR code to prove their health.
Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiology expert at the Chinese CDC, encouraged consumers to go back to the cinemas on Tuesday, declaring the capital’s recent outbreak to now be over.
“The orderly reopening of cinemas will be implemented in accordance with the principles of scientific prevention of the novel coronavirus and has undergone risk assessment,” he said. “Relevant departments have a set of prevention measures to ensure everyone’s safety.”
He added: “As long as we adhere to scientific prevention and control, we can prevent the novel coronavirus from rebounding and restore the normal order of life and work.”