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Official announcements that China is backing away from the harshest elements of the country’s strict Zero-COVID policy have yet to make much difference to the country’s cinema box office. But the coming release of “Avatar: The Way of Water” may change that.

Japanese animation “One Piece Film Red” held on to top place for the second weekend in a three-day session that was lower than the previous frame.

Data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway showed “One Piece Film Red” to have scored $4.8 million (RMB33.5 million) in mainland China between Friday and Sunday, giving it a ten-day cumulative score of $18.1 million (RMB127 million).

“Detective Conan The Movie: The Bride of Halloween” took second place with $2.4 million. That advanced its cumulative to $22.7 million since releasing on Nov. 18.

“The Tipping Point” earned $1.3 million in third place. It now has a cumulative of $23.6 million since release on Nov. 11.

National Day hit film “Homecoming” added $930,000 over the weekend. It now has $227 million, accumulated since Sept. 30. In fifth place, “Farewell Beijing” added $450,000 over the weekend, lifting its total to $7.2 million.

On Wednesday last week, China’s State Council unveiled a range of measures to reduce the burdens of anti-COVID controls on people’s lives and the economy, though the moves fall short of a formal end to the “Dynamic Zero COVID” policy.

Many commentators have been quick to spot green shoots. And the shares of many cinema-related companies have jumped sharply higher. The latest weekend box office data shows that the impact for the cinema industry was not instantaneous. After three years of top-down warnings about the dangers of close physical encounters, Chinese consumers may be understandably wary about crowing back into theaters.

The nationwide weekend box office aggregate was a lowly $11.5 million, down from the previous weekend’s $13.1 million and typical of the rangebound levels of activity since October that have reflected localized COVID controls and a damaging dearth of meaningful new release titles.

The current week will see a ramp up of activity towards the Friday release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which is not only a rare U.S. import, it is also a highly-anticipated fantasy that will well suit China’s array of premium large format and 3D-equipped screens. And, unusually, it has had more than three weeks to get the marketing message out.

From Monday, the original “Avatar” is getting a two-day re-release. On Wednesday, “Avatar: The Way of Water” will enjoy a day of previews, followed by midnight screenings on Thursday.

Reporting pre-sales, local ticket sales service, Maoyan shows “Avatar 2” leading the box office on those two days. Similarly, pre-sales for the weekend show “Avatar 2” dominating proceedings with a more than 95% market share. Pre-sales to the end of Sunday currently total RMB123 million ($17.5 million)