Hong Kong cinema operators and filmmakers are crying for help following a government announcement on Monday that COVID-19 social distancing measures will remain in place until Feb. 17. Crucially Hong Kong cinemas cannot reopen until after Chinese New Year and will have missed three important holiday seasons in the space of two months.
The city has seen an average of around 50 new infections per day over the past seven days, a slight decrease from the peak of the third wave of the pandemic that hit Hong Kong in late November. Some industry players said they were shocked and devastated.
Cinemas in Hong Kong were ordered to close doors three times in 2020. The Hong Kong Theater Association, which represents local cinema operators, said together with the third period of closure since Dec. 2, the city’s cinemas will have been closed for 163 days in the past 12 months.
The current closure means the loss of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year, which alone may represent 10-20% of annual box office.
“For the year 2020, we have already lost 90% of box office income, including festival films, private screenings and commercial films,” the HKTA secretariat told Variety.
The government has offered three rounds of compensation for cinema operators under an anti-epidemic fund at HK$50,000 or HK$100,000 ($6,400 – $12,800) per screen. “However, the compensation is minimal compared with the rent we have to pay (several millions per month),” and other expenses, the HKTA secretariat noted.
It was understood that at least four Hong Kong films slated for the Chinese New Year holidays will be affected. One of them is sequel “The Way We Keep Dancing,” scheduled for release on February 11. The film’s producer Saville Chan said it was uncertain when the film could be released as the situation remained unpredictable.
However, the ongoing closure of cinemas throughout the holiday seasons has seriously affected the livelihood and income of film workers, Chan said. “This is threatening the industry’s survival,” he said.