Nation's movie market surges ahead after pandemic

Robust recovery sees audiences return to theaters in numbers

By XU FAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-01-15 07:49
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Visitors to a cinema in Huai'an, Jiangsu province, line up to buy tickets on New Year's Eve. [DAI XIMING/FOR CHINA DAILY]

With the New Year holiday witnessing one of the highest-grossing movie box-office seasons to date, the Year of the Rabbit entered its last lunar month on a promising note, maintaining the robust recovery witnessed in 2023.

Some 1.53 billion yuan ($214 million) was earned from more than 36.6 million theater visits during the Dec 30 to Jan 1 holiday period, with domestic movies contributing 1.41 billion yuan, or 92 percent of overall ticket revenue, showed data from the China Film Administration, the country's top industry regulator.

Shining for One Thing, a movie remake of the popular eponymous 2022 television series, dominated the holiday box-office charts, enticing millions of young couples to spend a romantic and memorable New Year's Eve at the cinema.

A total of 1,314 theaters held special screenings as the movie premiered, recreating a classic scene with sprays of artificial snow.

The comedy Johnny Keep Walking!, which resonates among numerous white-collar workers with its satirical depiction of office problems, secured second place at the national box office during the New Year holiday. It was followed in third position by Hong Kong crime film The Goldfinger, which draws inspiration from a notorious corruption case in the 1980s.

Yin Hong, vice-chairman of the China Film Association, said that after enduring the challenges posed by the three-yearlong COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese film industry has witnessed a robust and stable recovery with a series of high-quality blockbusters. This demonstrates the vibrancy of the domestic market as well as the perseverance and diligence of filmmakers, Yin added.

Last year ended on a promising note, with a total box office gross of 54.91 billion yuan, a year-on-year rise of 83.4 percent. Even though this was short of the 64.3 billion yuan taken in 2019, the year before the pandemic resulted in nationwide theater closures for six months, many industry insiders and analysts said the film industry in China is making a healthy recovery.

In addition to urban residents, villagers in remote areas where cinemas have yet to be built now have access to cinematic entertainment. The China Film Administration said 262 rural digital cinema chains, which primarily screen movies outdoors, organized 42,000 teams to provide 8.24 million free screenings to rural residents last year.

Yin said, "From Spring Festival to the summer, and from the National Day vacation to the recent New Year holiday, Chinese cinemas have witnessed a significant return of theatergoers during these peak box office seasons, indicating the increasing appeal of domestic films."

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