Over the weekend a little more than 500 movie theaters reopened in China, signaling the first step in a return to normalcy, or something resembling normalcy, for the movie business. The coronavirus first emerged in China more than two months ago and, as the situation worsened, theaters all across the nation were shut down. While there is still a long way to go, a small percentage of those businesses have begun to open up as the virus has slowed substantially.

According to several reports, a total of 507 movie theaters were open in China by Saturday. This number represents just 4.5 percent of the country's total theaters, but it's a start. In recent years, China has become the second most movie-going nation in the world, behind only the United States. So when theaters closed in January, it was a big blow to the industry. As the COVID-19 virus spread worldwide, most countries have had to follow in China's footsteps, with the global box office virtually non-existent for the time being. With that in mind, these theater reopenings are surely encouraging to anyone involved in the movie business.

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Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Qinghai, Henan, Fujian and Guangdong are where the bulk of these screens opened up. This comes as cases of the virus have plummeted in recent days and the country, as a whole, is beginning the process of getting life up and running again. Still, the theaters that have opened are largely outside of heavily populated areas, and it could still be a while before people feel enough at ease to head back to crowded public places. That means, the box office returns could be minimal, even as things begin to ramp back up. Getting back to the way things were will take time.

It was recently revealed that several previous blockbusters will help reopen theaters in China, such as a re-release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Other titles include The Wandering Earth and Wolf Warrior 2. Exhibitors who show these movies will get to keep 100 percent of the revenue, as unique deals have been arranged to help these businesses recover after the weeks-long closure. Other, newer movies that had their release dates in China pushed back, such as 1917, Dolittle, Ford vs Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Bad Boys For Life and Sonic The Hedgehog will begin to roll out in late April.

This serves as an important indicator for other nations around the world. The shutdown in China stretched roughly two months, and things are only now starting to get back on track. Movie theaters in the U.S. closed their doors almost entirely little more than a week ago. That means it could be a long time before other countries can even begin to think about heading back to a theater, and that's if the self-isolation and social distancing measures are effective. Point being, it's still going to be a rough ride ahead for the entertainment industry. This news was previously reported by Deadline.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott