China’s National Film Administration today announced that cinemas in low-risk areas around the country can re-open on July 20, four days from now.
The notice comes after a catastrophic seven months for the Chinese film industry, which saw major cinema chains such as Wanda Films reporting expected losses of over 200 million USD for the first six months of the year, as well as the tragic death of the Vice President of Beijing-based Bona Film Group, Huang Wei.
Over the past few weeks, a number of stimulus plans for Chinese cinemas have been announced. In early July, Shanghai Municipal Film Administration announced subsidies of 18 million RMB for 345 cinemas in the eastern metropolis. Similarly, it was announced at the end of June that 260 cinemas in Beijing would benefit from a special development fund of 3 million RMB.
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The re-opening of Chinese cinemas comes with a variety of guidelines. Only areas at a low risk of Covid-19 are allowed to re-open cinemas, with screens in medium- and high-risk areas still shuttered. Additionally, audience numbers at cinemas are not to exceed 30% of the cinema’s capacity, with a distance of 1 meter between each person.
In order to attend screenings, moviegoers will be required to book tickets online before going to cinemas, so that a ticketless system can be implemented. Staff and audience members at cinemas will also be required to wear face masks.
The measures are similar to those applied to live music venues when they reopened earlier this year.
Viewing times at cinemas are also not to exceed 2 hours, with screenings that go over this time limit expected to be paused so that Covid-19 prevention measures such as cleaning and disinfection can be undertaken.
The hashtag #进电影院必须全程佩戴口罩# (Must wear a mask to enter a cinema) is trending on widely-used Chinese social media platform Weibo, with over 40 million views. Among comments on the new regulations, one user summed up the joy at seeing cinemas reopen, writing, “Finally!!! Cried very loudly.”
Two movies have already been added to Chinese movie ticketing platform Maoyan (猫眼) for a July 20 release. The first, A First Farewell, is the debut feature of Chinese director Wang Lina and tells the story of Uyghur families whose lives are upset by the introduction of Mandarin language teaching in schools. The second, 我在时间尽头等你 (Love You Forever), is a romantic movie based around three periods of a couple’s life.
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The 23rd iteration of Shanghai International Film Festival (SHIFF) is also rumored to be returning later this month. A poster for the festival, which was originally scheduled to be held from June 13-22, has been circulating online, with an opening date of July 25. While it’s expected that that SHIFF will take place online, this has yet to be confirmed by the festival’s organizers.
If it does go ahead, it will clash with another of China’s big film festivals, FIRST. Qinghai-based FIRST is set to take place from July 26 until August 3, making it one of the first film festivals in the world to take place in person since the outbreak of Covid-19.
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