China this week became the first global market to make a “full box office recovery” according to targets developed by the U.K.-based film industry analytics firm Gower Street, the company said Thursday.
The firm created five targets to track and compare the paths of different territories’ exhibition sectors back to recovery. The indicators move from stage one — a point when a significant majority (80%) of cinemas are ready to resume operations — to stage five, in which business over the course of a week is equivalent to that of the top quartile of weekly earnings from the past two years.
After reaching this stage five goal, a particular market “should react as normal, with an ebb and flow dependent on the release calendar,” Gower Street explained.
To reach that target, post-COVID China needed to generate a weekly box office of $184 million (RMB1.27 billion). According to data from Comscore Movies, China hit this target just five days into the week starting Friday, Aug. 21, having taken in $189 million (RMB1.31 billion) by the end of the day Tuesday.
China’s national box office for the full week was $252 million (RMB1.74 billion), more than 18% greater than that of the equivalent week in 2019, which saw earnings of around $209 million (RMB1.44 billion).
More than 90% of Chinese cinemas by market share are now open, although they continue to operate with capacity restrictions allowing them to sell only half their available tickets.
Despite these limitations, China’s performance stands out worldwide at a time when nearly 65% of global cinemas by market share are now back in business in the wake of COVID-19 closures, up from 55% a week ago, Gower Street said.
The global box office so far in 2020 is just $6.88 billion, a fraction of the $27.2 billion three year average year to date score. Nevertheless, sales are increasing, with the $200 million collected globally this week marking a rise of 54% from the one previous. China, said Gower Street, was “undoubtedly the driver” of this growth.
This week’s success was due to massive sales for local war film “The Eight Hundred,” as well as Tuesday’s Qixi Festival, a type of Chinese Valentine’s day, which saw the release of popular local time-travel rom-com “Love You Forever,” which grossed more than $39 million on its opening day.
Giving the box office a further mid-week boost, local romantic drama “Wild Grass” and Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-winning “Little Women” also premiered Tuesday, debuting to the tune of $5.5 million and $1.5 million on day one, respectively, according to data from Maoyan.
This week’s box office tally accounts for nearly a third of all ticket sales in China to date this year, with “The Eight Hundred” alone accounting of 27% of the national 2020 box office as of Wednesday. The film has grossed $210 million (RMB1.45 billion) and Maoyan now projects a total of $459 million (RMB3.16 billion).
The Chinese market’s revival comes just in time for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which is set to further galvanize recovery once it premieres in the country on Sept. 4. A re-release of his “Inception” will compete with “The Eight Hundred” once it hits cinemas on Friday.
Disney’s “Mulan” has yet to receive an official release date in the territory, but is expected to hit theaters in the near future.
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