Chinese New Year films shelved amid coronavirus outbreak

Chinese New Year films shelved amid coronavirus outbreak

In the midst of escalating outbreak of the deadly coronavirus — and in an unprecedented move — Chinese producers and distributors have cancelled the local release of all films set for the Lunar New Year period that begins this weekend.

There were seven potential blockbusters due to hit Middle Kingdom theatres, kicking off what is annually a highly lucrative session at local turnstiles, but the government has warned people not to congregate in crowded areas and producers are understood to have made the decision to delay releases given the potential risk of spreading the disease.

It is estimated that over US$77 million worth of tickets had already been pre-sold for the coming week.

Chinese health authorities announced today that 571 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the virus had been reported in 25 provincial-level regions, while 17 people have died. The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, was placed on lockdown with all public transportation suspended until further notice particularly devastating during what is a major holiday for travel and family gatherings.

IMAX Corp. said yesterday it supports the decision to postpone the Chinese New Year film slate in China because of the outbreak of a new coronavirus in the city of Wuhan that has affected more than 500 people and killed 17.

“The safety of our Chinese audiences is our top priority,” the operator of big screen cinemas said in a statement.

“IMAX supports the decision to postpone the release of the Chinese New Year film slate and believes it to be the best course of action in an unfortunate situation.”

Meanwhile, ticketing platform Taopiaopiao said it will refund tickets that had been pre-bought by customers in the city and will do its best to work with cinemas in the rest of the country to stem client losses. Maoyan also said it will refund all tickets across the mainland.

While certainly a rationale move, this is a potentially huge blow to the local industry which reaps cash at the box office during the Chinese New Year frame and a unfortunate event for the movie aficionados.

It is believed this year’s films will be rescheduled. How that may impact what Hollywood has remains to be seen.

By: Hema Subramaniam


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