Hours after Shanghai city authorities gave more than 200 cinemas the go-ahead for Saturday’s reopening, the Chinese authorities at national level ordered Friday to close all theaters across the country, probably due to concerns about a renewed threat the corona virus.
Around 500 theaters across the country had tried to reopen last week, but saw little financial benefit from it, as the shows averaged less than one person a day and national daily box office earnings were only thousands of dollars.
They did not reopen their doors until they received direct approval from their local government agencies, who confirmed that they followed the prescribed health procedures.
But now, China’s national film bureau has ordered them all to be closed without saying exactly why or when they might hope to reopen.
The office has made no direct statement itself. Instead, the news of his guideline came at an angle through reports of his “urgent orders” to the Jiangsu Province Film Bureau that “all theaters should be temporarily out of operation and those that should stop immediately,” according to local Yangtze River evening news .
Some believe that the sudden reversal in policy may be due to the fact that a new patient was diagnosed yesterday with localized transmission of the coronavirus instead of suffering overseas cases in Zhejiang Province that affect the overpopulated Bordering Shanghai Province and Jiangsu.
China has taken drastic measures to contain the number of coronavirus cases imported into the country, which now account for almost all newly reported patients.
On Thursday, a temporary entry ban was announced for all foreigners, even if they have a valid visa or a valid residence permit. So far, all domestic and foreign airlines have been restricted to only one flight a week to the country, with the additional restriction that flights could not have more than 75% of the capacity. In late February, Beijing began to require that anyone returning to the capital be put through a 14-day quarantine.
The contradicting instructions about cinema operations at various levels of government commemorate a drastic incident at the epicenter of the disease in Wuhan in late February. Local authorities initially said they would relax the quarantine restrictions for the 11 million people imprisoned there by allowing those who appeared healthy to leave the city, but then canceled the police hours later and said it was an “invalid” Decision that was made without a higher permit.
“After the cinemas have been notified by the parent departments, they will temporarily not resume operations on March 28,” said a joint statement by the national theater chains Broadway Cinemas, Cinema Palace and Premiere Cinemas Friday. Those who bought tickets can get a refund within 7 working days if they apologize for the inconvenience.
The U-turn comes the day after the city council of Shanghai has announced that 205 of the city’s 380 cinemas will reopen this weekend. It is the first large first-level metropolis to put theaters back online. State ticket subsidies of up to $ 846,000 (RMB 6 million) were planned to be granted over the next month to bring the audience back to the cinemas.
A cinema practitioner told Variety that he believes the new orders imply that there will be theater in the future is no longer opened in small quantities across the country according to local regulations. Instead, they are likely to be reopened all at once under a “one size fits all” model, with their processes regulated and controlled more uniformly by the central authorities.
Just as the national film bureau ordered cinemas to close, China’s state-owned television broadcaster CCTV6 announced on Friday that it would start streaming all three “Lord of the Rings” films in sequence starting Monday, March 30.
The trilogy was long expected to be one of the titles selected by the China Film Group state distributor to revive the dormant exhibition sector, along with the previously confirmed Hollywood blockbusters “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, all four films the “Avengers” series. and “Coco” among others. The fact that the trilogy is now published online and is no longer scheduled for future theatrical releases is another indication that this shutdown may continue for some time.
Online news of continued closings was received with a mix of patriotic acceptance, confusion, and runny nose.
“If the country doesn’t support the film industry soon, Chinese film will go back to the previous century,” wrote a Weibo social media commentator. Four other users answered simultaneously with a version of the same joke: “That could be a good thing – there were many more good Chinese films back then!”
Sha Dan, deputy director of business development at the China Film Archive in Beijing, wrote about his Weibo: “What we need now is acceptance and understanding! Given the epidemic, we definitely can’t be careless! Brothers from the cinema industry, let’s endure it a little longer! “
Li Yang, a film professor at China’s renowned Peking University, quipped gloomily: “It is practically bankrupt – there is nothing more that it cannot bear.”