China is predicting that its domestic box office will plummet by $4.2 billion this year, or close to 50 percent, due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the mass closure of movie theaters.
The world’s second largest movie market is expected to drop by more than 30 billion yuan ($4.2 billion), from last year’s $9.2 billion, according to Chinese film officials who reportedly spoke during a teleconference with film company representatives and industry officials on Wednesday.
China closed its movie theaters in January as the Wuhan coronavirus began its early rampage before becoming an international pandemic. While some Chinese cinemas began to re-open in March, the government shut down all theaters again following a surge in new cases of COVID-19.
Beijing hasn’t said when cinema are expected to re-open. Variety reported that this likely indicates that officials are taking a wait-and-see approach and observing what will happen in terms of second waves of infections.
“In the medium to long term, the economic pressure will force the industry to change its patterns, its production and operation,” Wang Xiaohui, vice-minister of the Communist Party’s propaganda department and head of the film administration, said during the teleconference, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. “The pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in the film industry and it’s also forcing the industry to reform and upgrade.”
A decision to re-open cinemas may not happen until next month, The National People’s Congress’s top body, the Standing Committee, reportedly intends to convene its annual gathering beginning May 22.
China has become a vital revenue stream for Hollywood’s major studios, which are increasingly relying on Chinese moviegoers to help their blockbuster movies turn a profit. Avengers: Endgame earned more than 20 percent of its global box office from China.
Some Hollywood releases make more money in China than they do in the U.S., including the latest Fast & Furious installment, Hobbs & Shaw; Godzilla: King of the Monsters; and Alita: Battle Angel.