Spring Festival blockbusters stage big retreat due to Wuhan epidemic

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 23, 2020
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A collage of the posters of seven blockbusters slated to hit Chinese theaters during the Spring Festival, "Detective Chinatown 3," "Legend of Deification," "Leap," "Vanguard," "Lost in Russia," "The Rescue" and "Boonie Bears: The Wild Life." [Photo/ China.org.cn]

Due to the Wuhan novel coronavirus outbreak, the film studios of seven blockbusters slated to hit Chinese theaters during the Spring Festival holiday urgently cancelled their release plans. They announced this unprecedented move on Thursday.

The Spring Festival is China's biggest annual festival and it has become a holiday tradition for families and friends to watch movies together, making it the biggest and most lucrative film season of the year. Many movie blockbusters scheduled their release date to coincide with the Spring Festival to maximize profits.

This year, "Detective Chinatown 3," "Lost in Russia," "The Rescue," "Leap," "Vanguard," and two animated features, "Legend of Deification" and "Boonie Bears: The Wild Life" were slated to open in cinemas during the Spring Festival holidays. The volume of ticket pre-sales for these films indicated that they were on track to set new box office records.

However, since the news of the Wuhan virus outbreak intensified, fans appealed to authorities and film studios to postpone their release dates. Many believed that doing so could help improve public health and safety as medical experts had repeatedly warned people against congregating in crowded and confined places, which of course included cinemas.

Studios that produced these films released statements soon after, confirming that they would suspend the release of their films, in an effort to help curb the spread of the virus. As such, they would cancel their Spring Festival releases and choose a later date to launch their films. They also paid tribute to medical staff working on the frontlines and promised that they would coordinate with ticketing platforms to refund audience for their purchases as soon as possible. 

According to Beacon, Alibaba Group's box office tracking and film marketing platform, the seven films have pre-sold 536 million yuan ($77.38 million) worth of tickets in total for the 7-day holiday before they halted further sales. As at noon on Thursday, Jan. 23, the total value of pre-sold tickets for the first day of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 25 was worth nearly 400 million yuan. This would have likely broken a slew of box office records if the films' releases had not been cancelled.  

It is not known if cinemas nationwide will shut down or still screen older films. Although this unprecedented retreat means a huge loss in profits for the film industry, the studios' moves received praise from audiences, who believed that people's lives and safety should be put first, and movies could still find their audiences again in the future.

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