Peter Chan’s hotly anticipated biographical sports drama “Leap” is set to hit China on Sept. 30, becoming the first of the Chinese New Year blockbusters canceled due to COVID-19 to set a theatrical outing.
Local animation “Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification,” which was also originally scheduled to premiere over the lunar new year, will premiere the day after. They will both hit theaters over the China’s patriotic National Day holiday that begins Oct. 1, typically one of the busiest movie-going weeks of the year.
They will compete against the patriotic anthology film “My People, My Homeland,” a sequel to last National Day’s “My People, My Country,” and Chinese comedy “Coffee or Tea?,” as well as a local animated take on the classic “Mulan” legend.
The fact that major new local blockbusters are now willing to set release dates is a signal of renewed confidence in China’s box office, as cinemas slowly get back on their feet after six months of closures. Theaters are still currently only allowed to sell up to 50% of their available tickets to enable social distancing.
Seven major films were expected to release Jan. 24 over the lunar new year holiday, but all were pulled just before their premieres as COVID-19 swept the country and made mass cinema-going look less and less feasible. Theaters were officially ordered shut by authorities just afterwards.
Of those titles, “Leap” is the first to set a theatrical release date. The others include helmer Dante Lam’s “The Rescue,” Wanda’s “Detective Chinatown 3,” Stanley Tong’s Jackie Chan-starring “Vanguard” and two animations, “Jiang Ziya” and “Boonie Bears: The Wild Life.”
Xu Zheng’s “Lost in Russia,” which was thematically tied to the lunar new year holiday, stoked controversy by deciding to skip theatrical altogether and release for free via ByteDance’s video platforms, including Douyin (China’s version of TikTok), Toutiao and Watermelon video.
“Leap” tells the story of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team and their tribulations over the course of decades. It features Huang Bo (“The Island,” “Crazy Alien”) and Gong Li, who stars as the legendary coach Lang Ping.