China Box Office Tumbles to $8.6 Million Weekend as COVID Infections Rise

China’s box office plunged back to its lowest levels in six months as the twin curses that have haunted the China film industry throughout this year – COVID restrictions and a lack of new releases – came back to haunt the latest weekend.

The top film, Japanese animation film, “Detective Conan: The Bride of Halloween” dropped 71% in its second frame. And nationwide takings collapsed down to just $8.6 million between Friday and Sunday, down more than 60% on the previous weekend, according to data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway.

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“Conan” earned $3.4 million (RMB24.2 million) for a 12-day total of $16.9 million. Unchallenged by new releases, “Conan” held a market share more than double that of second placed film “The Tipping Point” with $1.3 million (RMB9.2 million). “The Tipping Point” has now managed $19.6 million after nearly three weeks on release.

“Farewell Beijing” earned $1.2 million (RMB8.7 million) in third place for a two-week total of $4.8 million (RMB34.3 million). “Homecoming” added $700,000 in fourth place, lifting its cumulative to $221 million, earned over a two-month period.

Imported thriller “Fall” took fifth place with $500,000 (RMB3.7 million) in its second weekend, down from $1.4 million in its opening session. It now has a cumulative of $2.4 million earned over 10-days.

China is currently beset by a rising COVID problem. New cases are being detected in every province in the country. Nationwide infection totals have hit recent record levels (39,300 on Sunday) and new deaths from COVID have been recorded for the first time in many months.

These have caused China’s central and local governments to halt moves to relax restrictions that were promised by the State Council only a few weeks ago, around the time of the Communist Party of China’s once in five years National Congress.

Localized restrictions have been applied within major cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing. And, while city-wide lockdowns like the one operated in Shanghai earlier this year, have not since been repeated, a large portion of China’s industrial and economic machinery is being held back. In these circumstances – and with the World Cup soccer another reason for folks to stay home – few people are venturing out to the cinema and distributors see fewer reasons to release new film titles.

Exhibitors’ hopes for a brisk year end were given a boost last week by the announcement that “Avatar 2” will be given a Dec. 11 release in China. That will be on the same day that the highly anticipated film releases in North America and other markets.

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