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Chinese live events scored record $2.8bn in 2019 before COVID-19 collapse

China’s live events industry has reported losses of about ¥2.4bn (£272m/€312m/$339m) due to COVID-19 with 80 per cent of its first quarter performances being impacted.

More than 20,000 performances were cancelled or postponed between January and March, according to a report prepared by Damai in partnership with the China Association of Performing Arts and Lighthouse Research.

In addition, the report found that the 2019 total performing arts box office in China grew by 7.29 per cent year-on-year to ¥20.041bn – $2.8bn – while the cinema box office increased by 5.40 per cent to ¥64.266bn.

Greg Turner, founder and managing director of Shenzen High Performance Event Management, and who translated the original report, told TheTicketingBusiness that the most important thing to get audiences back once events start happening again after COVID-19 will be a “big show of support from the government that the events are safe again and people can go out an enjoy them.”

He added: “It will be interesting so see whether the shift in viewing habits for cinema will last. China has had several big local blockbusters released direct to streaming over the past few months. As the likes of Alibaba and Tencent are also investing into these movies, will the push for more of them to be released direct to their own streaming platforms and bypass traditional cinema?”

Turner told TheTicketingBusiness there will be an opportunity for live events to seize some market share from cinema following the COVID-19 outbreak. He said: “To make it last, live events are going to have to improve on the fan experience very quickly. New cinemas here are world class in terms of comfort and amenities. Not many live event venues in China can make the same claim and organisers don’t seem to be able to put much pressure on the venues to improve.”

Touring shows in China saw the fastest growth in 2019 after earning upwards of ¥7.4bn in ticket revenue, a 9.58 per cent growth from 2018.

The concert industry grew 6.9 per cent and earned ¥4.4bn from tickets in 2019, while theatre shows saw revenue increase by 5.55 per cent to ¥8.4bn.

In China, women are more active attendees as 65 per cent of audiences are women, with the numbers indicating a slight preference to theatre over concerts.

The report also noted that 66 per cent of concert audiences are 20-29-year-olds, while the same age group also has the largest proportion in theatre audiences at 49 per cent.

In 2019, performing arts saw a huge 250 per cent increase of advance ticket bookings from 2018.

Pop concerts have the highest average ticket prices of between ¥1,050 and ¥1,860, with the report indicating that post-90’s parents buy tickets for their kids and consumers under 25 years old have room to increase their spending. Musicals had the second most expensive ticket price, compared to instrumental concerts, stage plays and children’s shows.

For families in China, children’s shows are the first choice for families as an average of 3.6 tickets are purchased for performances in 2019, compared with 2.7 tickets for stage plays and 2.4 tickets for musicals.

Haikou saw explosive growth for concert in 2019 with a rise of 1,013 per cent from 2018. The region has reportedly experienced significant government and private investment for tourism, entertainment and sport in the last year.

The new 40,000-capacity Wuyuanhe stadium opened in 2018, giving Haikou its first modern-style venue for pop concerts. Hainan island (where Haikou is located) is already considered ‘China’s Hawaii,’ according to Turner, and the central government released a master plan for developing the island into a leading international level tourism centre.

Looking ahead past the live events blackout in China and beyond,Turner noted that one of the key factors to restarting the industry in China is a well organised screening process for entering venues. He said: “China has lots of experiments with this already as they have reopened other parts of the economy so will include real name registration when purchasing tickets and also entering the venue, temperature checks, clearly published health checks on performers along with event and venue staff, cleaning procedures for the venue, etc.”

He also highlighted the need for the resumption of regional travel as the even the borders between Hong Kong/Taiwan and the mainland are all closed now.

Turner said: “If artists can’t come in from those two places, there will be a lack of top level shows and talent. This doesn’t even include international shows, which will have a detrimental affect on musicals and kids shows.

“China will bounce back, the people here are still to resilient and full of hope to let the virus weigh them down long. However until the government gives their full support and we get past this situation of stops and starts for reopening, it’s going to be a tough road to tread. Let’s see where things are by the end 2021 though, I expect things to take off once the all clear is given.”