Movie Theaters Are Starting to Reopen in China

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to create disruption on nearly every aspect of daily life [...]

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to create disruption on nearly every aspect of daily life for many across the globe, there's a glimmer of hope coming out of China, at least on the entertainment front. Chinese state media CGTN reports (via Variety) that more than 500 movie screens have reopened in China as cases of COVID-19 continue to recede. While actual box office receipts for these newly-reopened theaters remain low as people continue to avoid public gatherings, it's a step forward, even if the reopening represent less than five percent of all theaters in operation prior to the viral outbreak.

According to data from ticketing firm Maoyan, the theaters that have reopened represent five separate provinces across China: Xinjiang, Shandong, Sichuan, Fujian, and Guangdong, though in Fujian and Guangdong -- both of which border Hong Kong -- no tickets were sold on Friday, when the reopening began. As for what's playing in these reopened theaters, most of the films are reportedly recent and popular Chinese films getting a re-screen with that focus being done, in part, to help mitigate risk by reducing the likelihood that viewers would flock to a major new release. Additionally, there is some indication that some Hollywood films may be coming to Chinese theaters, such as Green Book and A Dog's Purpose while Warner Bros. announced that they would be releasing a 4K version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on its Chinese social media, though there has been no official date for any of those releases.

What the reopening of some Chinese theaters means for the entertainment industry writ large remains to be seen. China is the second largest box office market in the world, so theaters returning to life will certainly be helpful, but the North American market is very much in a "wait and see" holding pattern. As spread of the coronavirus continues to intensify in the United States specifically, theaters remain closed down, movie studios have begun delaying domestic release of movies, production on others have halted, and many states and municipalities are going on some variation of "stay at home" orders in which only essential operations are permitted while people are told to stay home in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In China, no new local cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday, but 39 new infections were confirmed, all of them having been brought into China from other countries . There were also nine more recorded deaths of existing COVID-19 patients, all of them in Wuhan, though the province has not registered any new cases of the illness for nearly a week.

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