China’s latest blockbuster The Wandering Earth is making megabucks at the box office but is fighting a bigger threat than a looming explosion of the sun – a voracious piracy industry that is eating into its ticket takings. Pirated copies of the movie, which has earned over 2.1 billion yuan (US$311 million) in ticket sales since its release on Tuesday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, have flooded China’s internet. As a result, the space epic that was the highest highest-grossing film in the traditional peak box office period, can be bought online for as little as 1 yuan. On Sunday, an alarmed National Copyright Administration asked web users to report infringements to “protect good domestic films”. “After several days of joint action by multiple departments and the copyrights’ owners, the spread of pirated copies of Spring Festival movies has been curbed to some extent,” the administration said on its microblog. Chinese sci-fi hit ‘The Wandering Earth’ sends producers’ shares into orbit Gong Ge’er, who leads the movie producer’s anti-piracy team, said his team was busy blocking links to pirated copies and needed help. “In recent days, the staff of The Wandering Earth have not had time to celebrate the box office success, but have devoted almost all their energy to complaining to authorities about piracy and blocking pirated copies,” Beijing Youth Daily quoted Gong as saying. Pirated “high-definition and complete” versions of the film are being sold online either individually or as package with other new films such as Crazy Alien and Pegasus , at prices ranging from 1 yuan to 20 yuan. Rampant piracy has partly led to the drop in the number of viewers, according to film portal Mtime. Despite 10,000 new movie screens and a small rise in total box office takings over last year’s seven-day Lunar New Year holiday, the number of cinema-goers dropped by 15 million in this year’s “golden week”, the site said, without providing absolute figures. China Movie Data Information Network said the number of people going to the movies over the holiday fell from 145 million people last year to 123 million this year, a fall of more than 20 million. In the past seven days, China’s box office, led by the special effects-heavy thriller, took in more than 5.8 billion yuan in ticket sales in total, compared with 5.7 billion yuan over the same holiday period last year. The Wandering Earth could be the film to spark China’s science fiction moviemaking Directed by Frant Gwo, The Wandering Earth is based on a novella by award-winning Chinese writer Liu Cixin and tells a tale of humanity’s quest to find a new home in the face of the sun’s imminent destruction. Many viewers have called it a new dawn for Chinese sci-fi cinema, which has remained the most underdeveloped genre in China’s fast-growing movie industry. The film’s unexpected box office success sent shares of its two major producers up on the first trading day after the Lunar New Year holiday. Shares in Shenchen-listed Beijing Jingxi Culture and Tourism, which also co-produced China’s highest-grossing film, Wolf Warrior 2 , surged by the 10 per cent daily limit to 14.51 yuan on Monday morning. State-owned China Film Group also registered a 1.5 per cent gain at noon close.