Chinese Box Office Down 27% From 2019

The Chinese box office is looking to films like ”No Time to Die“ and ”The Battle of Lake Changjin“ to end a four-month slump

With plenty of blockbusters and specialty contenders, October is expected to be a busy and fruitful month for the box office. That’s not just in the United States but also in China, where theaters hope that a mix of local and Hollywood blockbusters (though no Marvel movies) will break a months-long slump in moviegoing.

China was the envy in the global theatre market seven months ago. It reported a record $1.2billion in the Lunar New Year period from February 11-17. China’s box office for the first two month of 2019 was $2.3 billion. This is nearly 5% higher than the pace in pre-pandemic 2019. At a time when much of the rest of the world’s movie theaters had scarcely begun to reopen, China was looking like it was all the way back to normal.

The Chinese box office has seen a significant decline in revenue since then. Artisan Gateway reports that the year-to date box office is $5.3 billion. This puts it about 27% below 2019 levels. The last time overall weekend grosses in China rose above $100 million was the opening weekend of Universal’s “Fast & Furious” film “F9” back on May 21. The film earned $203.8 million in China. Since May, though, grosses in the U.S. and Canada — approximately $1.9 billion — have exceeded the $1.6 billion grossed by China in the same time frame.

There are many factors that have contributed to this turn of fortune. The first is the Delta variant. China has experienced a significant increase in COVID-19 infection rates, which led the government to implement some of the most restrictive containment measures in the world. This included tightening capacity restrictions, which has resulted in a reduction of the number of tickets that can be sold each day.

Another factor that could be even more important is the lack of popular titles. Many blockbusters in the area were planned to release on the 100th anniversary the Chinese Communist Party. The most anticipated titles were moved to October 1st after Delta was released. Foremost among these is “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a nearly three-hour war epic about a key battle between China’s People’s Volunteer Army and the United States during the Korean War. The film is expected to have a theatrical run in China to rival the massive $460 million total that “The Eight Hundred” earned during the heights of the pandemic last year.

Without films like “Lake Changjin,” only two films released since May have grossed close to $200 million in China: “Chinese Doctors,” a dramatic retelling of how frontline medical workers in Wuhan took on COVID-19 that grossed $197.1 million, and “Raging Fire,” a cop action film starring Donnie Yen that has grossed $194 million since its July 30 release.

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