China’s box office plummets over major public holiday

China’s box office saw its lowest figures for seven years over the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, with revenue at around half of the 2018 record.

Data from Maoyan Entertainment shows that cinemas brought in RMB 465m ($72.6m) over the three-day break, which is down significantly on the RMB 912m generated three years ago. It was the lowest tally since 2014, when cinema-goers spent RMB 439m.

The decrease was in part down to fresh lockdowns in major cities Guangzhou, Foshan and Zhanjiang due to rising COVID-19 cases. However, analysts believe a lack of interesting new releases and the option to travel in areas not affected by the virus could also have had an impact. Official data suggested people found alternative forms of entertainment over the break, with tourist travel and visits to parks in Beijing both up significantly.

Maoyan said that the top performer over the Dragon Boat Festival holiday was Chinese comedy Never Stop, which grossed RMB 81m, followed by Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which generated RMB 63m.

The underwhelming figures come just a month after record box office figures were recorded across the five-day May Day holiday. Cinemas brought in RMB 1.67bn compared to RMB 1.53bn prior to the pandemic in 2019.

Cinema ticket sales in China surpassed the US for the first time in 2020. Box office sales in China surpassed $1.98bn for 2020, exceeding the US total of $1.9bn, according to Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway.

Meanwhile, Chinese film and tech group Alibaba Pictures managed to reduce its losses during the COVID-affected financial year to March 2021.

Despite the impact of lockdowns between January and July 2020 and then restricted capacities at cinemas until September, revenue was down just 0.5 per cent to RMB 2.85bn. EBITA, or net cash flow, was positive for the first time at RMB 118m compared with an outflow of RMB 661m in the comparable reporting period.

Alibaba Pictures pointed to strength and scale of its content as the differentiator between this and previous years. It was a producer on or distributor of 15 out of the top 20 Chinese films by box office during the 2020/21 financial year, contributing box office of over RMB 24.7bn in aggregate. It was also involved in supplying content, TV dramas especially, to online video platforms.