Shanghai to Re-Open 205 Cinemas Closed Due to Coronavirus

Rebecca Davis

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More than 200 cinemas in Shanghai will re-open Saturday after nearly two months of enforced shutdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, Chinese authorities said Thursday.

This makes the metropolis of more than 24 million one of China’s first major tier one cities to re-open multiplexes to the public, after others in more far-flung regions like Xinjiang or SIchuan provinces led the way last week.

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A first batch of 205 Shanghai cinemas will resume operations Saturday, while the rest will re-open “in an orderly manner when the conditions are right,” said the official Xinhua news agency, referencing comments made by Shanghai Municipal Government spokesman Yin Xin at a Thursday press conference about coronavirus prevention. There are currently more than 380 cinemas in Shanghai.

In order to encourage viewers to actually frequent cinemas, the Shanghai Film Bureau will partner with the city’s propaganda bureau on a month-long program to subsidize film tickets. Until April 26, users buying tickets through the Tao Piao Piao online ticketing app will each be able to purchase up to four tickets with a RMB10 ($1.41) subsidy. The program will issue a maximum of 20,000 subsidized tickets, aiming at a total of 600,000 cut-rate tickets sold over its course.

Shanghai had previously released China’s most detailed technical instructions yet for how cinemas should maintain strict virus prevention procedures during operations. These include requiring viewers to wear a mask, take a temperature test before entering, and show a “health code” — a digital indicator of their health status that takes into account whether they have recently been exposed to the virus. Cinemas should sell tickets spaced apart and schedule screenings with more than 20 minute intervals between them so as to leave time for disinfection procedures, among other measures.

State-run distributor China Film Corp. has made 20 re-release films available to cinemas, including the top three highest grossing films in Chinese film history — the blockbusters “Wolf Warrior 2,” “Nezha” and “The Wandering Earth” — as well as foreign imports such as “Green Book” and Lebanon’s “Capernaum.”

So far, cinema revenues have been dismal, as audiences remain wary of gathering together to watch content they could stream at home. As of Tuesday, March 24, there were 495 cinemas operating in China, accounting for just 4.4% of the national total. The nationwide box office as of early evening on Thursday was a dismal $3,200 (RMB23,000), with an average of just one person attending each screening, according to Xinhua.

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