China’s box office revenues took a major blow over the Labour Day holiday because of coronavirus controls in some of the country’s biggest cities. Total box office sales, including presales, for the five-day holiday which started on Saturday, added up to 100 million yuan (US$15 million) as of noon on Sunday, according to figures from Maoyan, a leading technology and entertainment service provider. This was well below last year’s total of 1.7 billion yuan for the entire Labour Day holiday. Walk-in sales were also on course to fall behind last year’s total, standing at around 21 million yuan at noon on Sunday, compared with 440 million yuan for the whole day last year. ‘Pandemic has to be contained, economy should be stabilised’, says Beijing The three biggest draws were Stay With Me, a domestic movie, and two Hollywood offerings: The Bad Guys and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, according to Maoyan. The lacklustre box office takings for the holiday – usually a popular time for cinemas – follows a 10-year low of 122 million yuan over the three-day Ching Ming holiday last month. China’s wave of Omicron cases has led to lockdowns or strict mass testing in many of its most important cities. Nomura estimates 46 cities in China are currently in full or partial lockdowns, affecting 343 million people. Shanghai’s citywide lockdown has been in effect since April 1, and authorities have yet to give a clear time frame for lifting stringent measures in the country’s biggest financial hub. Meanwhile, residents of Beijing will also have to produce negative Covid-19 test results to enter public facilities when they head back to work and school after the holiday. Zhu Yuqing, the founder of Ju Ying Hui, a platform that matches filmmakers and investors, told Chinese media that “the uncertainties of the pandemic have impacted the industry negatively”. The priority now was to “save” the industry, he added, and “restore” the confidence of industry players. Maoyan’s app said that so far the cinema operating rate in the country was 62.63 per cent. Data from cultural consulting firm Top Century said cinemas across various cities were facing the risk of closing down, as the overall operating rate had been around 50 per cent since March. Operators were also required to close down for 180 days back in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic. In an April report about China cinema trends, Artisan Gateway wrote that online streamers including Bilibili, BesTV, Himalaya, Dragonfly FM and Migu Video had started sending free membership cards – typically lasting for 15 days – to Shanghai residents locked down at home.