China Box Office: Business Crumbles as Coronavirus Lockdowns Bite

Cinema box office in mainland China crumbled to its lowest weekend total this year as the film industry was once again hit by the impact of anti-coronavirus lockdowns. Nationwide, cinemas recorded just $12.6 million of business.

Virus infections are spiking sharply upwards in some parts of the country, caused by the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the COVID-19 disease, though in comparison with many other countries absolute numbers remain low. And, given the country’s stated zero-COVID policy, national and local authorities’ responses have been severe and restrictive.

The current epicenter is Shanghai, where a megacity of 25 million people has been locked down in two phases for much of the past week. With 2,000 military doctors currently shipping into the city, repeated mass testing for the disease is now underway. Cinemas in Shanghai remain shut, with significant impact on national levels of business.

Artisan Gateway calculates that box office in the year to date amounts to $2.20 billion. That is 24% down on the same point last year.

The weekend chart was complicated not just by cinema closures, but also by a staggered series of film releases.

Data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway show “Moonfall” on top for the second weekend, with a Friday to Sunday score of RMB20.4 million or $3.2 million at current rates of Renminbi to US dollar exchange.

“Escape Room: Tournament of Champions” was released on Saturday and ranked second at the weekend with a two-day score of RMB11.9 million ($1.9 million).

“Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” was released on Sunday and earned RMB11.7 million ($1.8 million).

In fourth place, Hong Kong-made crime thriller “Man on the Edge” earned RMB9.9 million ($1.5 million) from two days of previews. The film is scheduled for its official release on April 15, 2022.

The out-of-synch releasing pattern threw up several oddities not fully reflected in the three-day chart.

Local sources showed that four of the top five films on Saturday were US made (“Moonfall” and “Escape Room 2” in first and second spots, and “The Batman” and “Uncharted” in fourth and fifth, respectively). But, the localized lockdowns and cinema closures, means that Hollywood’s timing is unfortunate.

On Sunday, “Hotel Transformania 4” was the top film ahead of “Moonfall” and “Escape Room 2.”

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