Entertainment

China preparing to reopen cinemas with past blockbusters

After weeks of being shuttered to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Chinese cinemas are preparing to reopen with a program of past hits and a 4K restoration of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Chinese box office fell nearly $2B in January and February from same period a year prior

Patrons watch a 3D Imax movie in Beijing in May 2012. Chinese officials are making preparations to reopen cinemas, which have largely been shut down since late January and early February due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

After weeks of being shuttered to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Chinese cinemas are preparing to reopen with a program of past hits and a 4K restoration of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

China Film Group, the country's state-run film enterprise, announced it is prepping a handful of previous Chinese box- office hits to roll out out in cinemas. 

The initial movies chosen include: 

  • American Dreams in China, a 2013 Chinese movie that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
  • Wolf Totem, a 2015 Chinese-French drama directed by Seven Years in Tibet filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud.
  • Wolf Warrior II, a 2017 Chinese action film, the fastest to surpass $500 million US at China's box office.
  • The Wandering Earth, a 2019 Chinese sci-fi title, among the country's highest-grossing films of all time.
  • Capernaum, Nadine Labaki's 2018 Lebanese drama that won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was a surprise hit upon its release last year in China.

According to a statement from China Film Group, the rights holders for these films are foregoing their usual cut of box office proceeds to allow cinemas to collect the full profits, an attempt to offer a quick financial boost to theatres, which has been locked down for weeks. 

A 4K, 3D version of the first film of the Harry Potter franchise is also headed to Chinese theatres soon, Warner Bros. revealed Thursday on Chinese social media site Weibo.

In a post on Chinese social media site Weibo on Thursday, Warner Bros. touted an upcoming 3D, 4K release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in China. (Warner Bros./Weibo)

According to media reports, China Film Group has recommended cinema owners schedule charitable, free or low-cost screenings "to benefit viewers" and help jump-start moviegoing again. 

Officials also stressed the importance of adhering to the current strict sanitizing, hygiene and distancing protocols adopted in face of the coronavirus outbreak.

After the U.S., China is the world's second-largest film market, with close to 70,000 movie screens across the country. According to figures from Comscore, the Chinese box office in January and February made nearly $2 billion US less than it had during the same period a year earlier.

The country began to shut down large public gatherings in the days before annual Lunar New Year celebrations on Jan. 25. That progressed to severe curtailing of travel within the country and widespread lockdowns. 

In recent days, regions across China began the process of authorizing businesses to resume, including entertainment venues. On Thursday, Chinese health officials reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases, a significant turning point in the outbreak, which began in the city of Wuhan. The 34 new Chinese cases registered in the past 24 hours were attributed to individuals who had travelled abroad.

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