China’s holiday box office plummets to 7-year low as film industry struggles to rebound from coronavirus pandemic
- China’s box office revenue over the Dragon Boat Festival holiday was 465 million yuan (US$72.6 million), the lowest level since 2014
- The film industry is still facing financial difficulties following the pandemic, with production companies citing tight cash flow and rising debt
China’s box office revenue over the most recent three-day holiday period plummeted to its lowest level in seven years amid a new coronavirus outbreak in the populous province of Guangdong, raising questions about the recovery of the nation’s film industry.
Box office sales for the Dragon Boat Festival holiday that ended on Monday grossed 465 million yuan (US$72.6 million), the lowest tally since 2014, when Chinese cinema-goers spent 439 million yuan on film tickets over the long weekend, according to data from Maoyan Entertainment.
In 2019, China’s box office revenue for the holiday was 785 million yuan and in 2018 it was 912 million yuan, according to Maoyan.
Analysts had expected a strong box office performance over the long weekend after sales reached 1.67 billion yuan over the Labour Day holiday early in May, contributing more than a third of monthly revenue for the film industry.
“I think the outbreak in Guangdong is only one reason,” said Louis Tse Ming-kwong, managing director at Wealthy Securities, about the fall in revenue.
He said a lack of interesting new feature films and the option to travel in areas not affected by the virus could also have contributed to the underwhelming figure.
Official data suggested people found alternative forms of entertainment over the break, with around 89.1 million tourists travelling nationwide – a year on year increase of 94.1 per cent – while parks in Beijing received 3.12 million visits, up 61 per cent from a year ago.
Wang Changtian, founder, CEO and president of Beijing Enlight, an entertainment and media company, said during the Shanghai Film Festival last week he was most concerned with mounting debt in the industry.
“I think the film and television industry is in a rut in terms of capital and investment. When will we get through it?” Wang was quoted as saying by the state-backed National Business Daily. “The theatres owe money to the distributors, the distributors owe money to the production companies, the production companies owe money to each other, and the production companies owe money to the creators.”
Yu Dong, chairman, CEO and founder at Bona Film Group, said high costs for distribution and transactions were among the difficulties facing the industry, which has yet to fully recover from the pandemic.
“During the Lunar New Year this year, everyone saw the box office grow,” Yu said at the Shanghai Film Festival, according to Paper.cn, a website owned by the Shanghai government. “In fact, the total audience number did not increase, but the ticket prices were higher.
“If you look at the data carefully, the service fee rose the fastest.”
The top performer over the Dragon Boat Festival holiday was Chinese comedy sports drama Never Stop, which grossed 81 million yuan, followed by 3D computer animation Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which generated 63 million yuan, according to data from Maoyuan.
Some film-goers said they did not visit cinemas because of high ticket prices and a lack of appealing films.
“Many films are not interesting and the tickets are costly as well,” said one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.
Another Weibo commenter said: “I’d like to go see a film, but recently I just don’t have any desire to watch anything that is on.”