Gradually, an array of cinemas are having plans on reopening things as lockdown is easing out but when it specifically comes to China, that process has been under consideration for a while now. A reopening of mainland Chinese cinemas may shortly become reality, but for some operators, that moment could come too late as the prospect of bankruptcy looms.
A new survey from the industry body, the China Film Association, published by the South China Morning Post, suggests that 40% of cinemas could permanently shut down as a result of the prolonged closure. Movie theaters have remained dark in China longer than any other country — it is now 130 days since they were ordered shut on Jan. 23.
At the end of 2019, there were 69,800 cinema screens in operation, according to official state media. They were located at some 12,400 complexes. A 40% closure could, therefore, mean the loss of 5,000 venues and 27,920 screens.
Those figures tally with data previously disclosed by Asian cinema investment and industry research consultant Artisan Gateway. “China suffered the permanent closure of at least 2,300 cinemas through the first two months of the COVID-19 industry shutdown. This equals a loss of 12,000 screens, nearly 20% of China’s theatrical release capacity,” Artisan Gateway chief Rance Pow told Variety in April.
Officially, China has now paved the way for cinemas to reopen. On May 8, China’s cabinet, the State Council, said that “cinemas, theaters, recreation halls, and other enclosed entertainment and leisure venues may hold all types of necessary meetings and exhibition activities.” But there appears to be a little movement to make that happen.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention last month said that cinemas in regions with low risks can reopen, by appointment, and with reduced capacity and daily disinfecting measures for theaters, seats, and 3D glasses. It recommended that audiences only attend with family members. It warned that cinemas in areas with medium to high risk should remain closed.