The movie business has just been handed a bit of much-needed good news. After closing down in January, movie theaters in China have officially been given the green light to reopen again, and soon. Per local officials, theaters can resume operations as soon as July 20, which will not only provide a huge boost to the industry in the country itself, but possibly to the industry as a whole.
The China Film Administration sent out the notice recently. This does not mean, however, that all theaters will be able to open right away. It specifically states that theaters in “low-risk” areas will be able to resume business. The specific criteria have not yet been determined for where the threshold of low-risk and high-risk exists. In any event, this means that the second-largest moviegoing nation in the world will be bringing in some box office in the near future. Though, there are some heavy restrictions placed on local theater operators.
It is no secret that China was hit particularly hard and, in the interest of public health, theaters that do reopen must adhere to a set of strict safety measures. While measures have also been outlined for chains in the U.S. such as AMC and Regal, which are expected to open later this month, some of what Chinese theaters will have to due suggests a slow start. For one, seating capacity has been limited to just 30 percent in auditoriums, and the number of screenings per day is limited to 50 percent of what would occur under normal circumstances.
Extra sanitation, temperature checks and a mandatory mask policy will be in place as well. Tickets also must be sold exclusively through digital means. Some of the other measures seem damning to theater owners’ pocketbooks. For example, they won’t be allowed to sell concessions. Additionally, no movie longer than two hours can be shown. The reasoning behind that specific rule is a bit unclear, but that does rule out quite a few recent blockbusters that might have been used to drum up business in the early days. For now, new movies will be limited so theaters will be leaning on old hits to get customers back.
This is certainly good news for Hollywood as well, as it means some sorely-needed box office dollars will be coming in. Though the months-long closure came with heavy consequences. As we previously reported, 40 percent of China’s movie theaters may never open again. The closure was financially straining and forced many business owners to declare bankruptcy and/or close down. That comes with long term consequences, as it limits the number of screens future blockbusters can play on in China once they are released. Be that as it may, this is a major step in the right direction for the industry as a whole. This news was previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter.