This past weekend should have been a boon at the Chinese box office, as it is normally the busiest season for moviegoers in the country. That all changed, as the deadly Coronavirus all but wiped out the box office earnings in China this past week. The Chinese Government has ordered new measures to fight the virus, and this called for all movie theaters and film palaces in the region to shutter their doors.
The Chinese Government is taking some strict measures to limit travel to and from the country. They have also extended the current public holidays by an additional three days. Their hope is that they can slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. The Chinese New Year holidays, aka Spring Festival, were supposed to come to a close on Thursday, January 30. But they have been extended to Sunday, February 2.
This directive ensures that all schools and stockmarkets remain closed throughout this weekend. The central government's State Council was behind this extreme measure. The annual holiday is responsible for 600 million travelers within the span of a week, as city workers head to home towns and more rural areas. Many families enjoy making the moviegoing experience part of their Chinese New Year holidays, but that is not happening this year.
All seven major tentpole releases planned for the holiday weekend have been canceled in the wake of the Coronavirus. This has completely wiped out any theatrical business and has pretty much tanked any box office profit that was planned. As of Sunday, there were ten top titles still available for viewing in theaters, but the box office sank to $1.2 million on January 25. Figures from local data provider Ent Group. said that the profits were cut in half by Sunday, with business down to just $510,000.
On the first day of Chinese New Year in 2019, the top 8 movies had earned $200 million before the night was even over. The total box office grosses for the 2019 lunar new year period was $860 million.
So far, 80 people have lost their lives to the Coronavirus, with Wuhan, known epicenter of the virus outbreak, and a dozen other cities isolating themselves hoping to slow the spread of infection. According to China's National Health Commission, 2,744 people were known to be infected with the disease by Monday. China's Premier Li Keqiang is gearing up to lead a high-level task force in dealing with the outbreak.
The lockdown measures being experienced in China are so unpopular at the moment, The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, and Wuhan Communist Party chief Ma Guoqiang have both offered to resign from their posts. Many believe that the lockdowns had been started too late. It is believed that at least 5 million people have fled the city of Wuhan before they could be properly quarantined.
Many believe the cause of the virus comes from Bats, or other animals, and is now capable of human-to-human transmission. Symptoms are described to be flu-like, and it is infectious and transmittable before symptoms can even show up. This news was first reported by Variety.