China Surpasses US in Box Offices
It’s no surprise that global box offices have taken a beating this year, but with coronavirus infections reaching unprecedented numbers in the United States, China has surpassed the USA's 2020 box office receipts.
As part of New York Governor Cuomo’s latest on the reopening of theaters, he announced that theaters outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen at limited capacity starting October 23rd, 2020. With this comes a long list of precautions, some of which include: limiting theaters to 25% capacity with a cap of 50 people per showing, assigned seating, and mask mandate unless seated. This new policy also stipulates ”theaters will only open in counties that are below 2% COVID-19 positivity on a 14-day average and have no cluster zones” (Drury and McClintock). Frustrated with the precautions, film exhibitors all across New York used marquee signs to send a unified message to Governor Cuomo: “48 states have reopened theaters so far. Why not New York? Gov. Cuomo #ReopenOurCinemasNY.”
While the coronavirus has corroded the domestic and global box office, China has topped the US for the first time ever. Last week, 2020 movie ticket sales in China surpassed all of North America's - approaching $2 billion. China’s authoritarian leadership was able to minimize the virus’ spread in recent months and safely reopen theaters. China is operating tens of thousands of theaters at 75% capacity and their audiences seem to have no hesitation in returning to the in-person viewing experience. During China’s recent weeklong National Day holiday (spanning the week of October 1-8, 2020) Chinese cinemas sold $586 million worth of tickets.
Meanwhile, lax regulation and surging infections in the US are expected to widen the box office gap considerably by year’s end. This eventual shift was predicted years ago due to a surging Chinese movie-going population, but the pandemic has accelerated the transition. While the United States struggles to get a hold on coronavirus, China’s theater industry is reaping the financial benefits of a healthy population.