China’s biggest box office season has fallen victim to the deadly coronavirus, with the releases of seven major Spring Festival blockbusters all being put on hold as the country attempts to control the spread of the respiratory illness that has claimed 17 lives. The move came as Wuhan, the central Chinese city of 11 million that is being treated as “ground zero” for the new virus strain, announced the suspension of public transport and fears of the virus spread globally.
The move demonstrates the scale of concern over the virus and the rapid shift in attitudes toward its containment — just days ago, Detective Chinatown 3 was posting some of the biggest presale numbers in Chinese cinema history amid little public information regarding coronavirus. Now, Wuhan has had its public transport suspended, there’s been a nationwide run on face masks, and China’s internet is awash with talk of little else.
Film and TV in 2020: What Will China Be Watching?
Official accounts on microblogging site Weibo for seven major releases — Detective Chinatown 3, Leap, Lost in Russia, The Rescue, Legend of Deification, Vanguard, and The Wild Life — all announced that they were suspending their planned weekend releases in an attempt to limit public gatherings of large numbers of people. No new release dates were offered.
Update: The official Weibo account for Lost in Russia has announced that the film will be made available online for free from Lunar New Year’s Day (Saturday 25 January). It’ll be shown via Douyin (TikTok), Xigua, Jinri Toutiao, and Huanxi but those wanting to watch it will need to download one of these apps in order to do so.
Several booking services had already begun offering free refunds on cinema tickets in Wuhan before the announcement.
Along with some questions over ticket refunds and a few calls for the films to be released on online streaming platforms instead, most comments on Weibo were broadly supportive of the move. A poll on popular account Fan Idol found more than 320,000 of the 470,000 users to cast their votes supported changing the release dates and extending the films’ cinema runs; just over 100,000 argued for online releases instead, with fewer than 30,000 people arguing that the original release dates should be adhered to.
The statement from Lost in Russia echoed the sentiment of many with the words, “in making a film for every family, our biggest wish is for everyone to enjoy it happily and healthily.”
Cover image: Movie still of CMC Pictures’ THE RESCUE directed by Dante Lam.
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