Chinese box office has lost £1.5 billion in wake of the coronavirus outbreak

Ben Arnold
Contributor
A cinema in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China (Reuters)

The Chinese box office has already lost a staggering $1.9 billion – about £1.5 billion – after shuttering its cinemas in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Industry analyst Comscore calculated (via Variety) that the box office takings for January and February this year have been $238 million in total.

That compares with $2.148 billion during the same period last year, and $2.378 billion the year before that.

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The problems were also exacerbated by the timing of the Chinese New Year, with the lunar holiday falling earlier than usual.

Many cinemas shut down before the annual holiday began, a period which usually provides a substantial increase in box office receipts.

The Chinese premieres of No Time To Die, Jojo Rabbit, Dolittle and 1917 were all cancelled (Getty)

Already, movies such as No Time To Die, Jojo Rabbit, Dolittle and 1917 have had their Chinese premieres cancelled.

Disney is also concerned how the closures will affect the release of its new live-action remake of Mulan, which was hoped to be a smash in China.

It's thought that cinemas will also remain closed through March too.

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“Judging from the current situation, the film industry is not equipped to resume business yet, and we have not approved industry’s demands to resume business as of now,” said Chen Bei, the deputy secretary general of the Beijing municipal government.

Cinemas will have to request official permission to reopen, and with then only be allowed to allocate tickets on alternate rows, and implement disinfection of auditoriums after screenings.

Mulan ( Disney)

Patrons would also have to register their personal details.

It's not the only movie market to be suffering – Italy is contending with a 75% drop in revenues last weekend, since coronavirus arrived last month.

The outbreak caused a number of towns in the north of the country to be sealed off.

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Now, with almost half of Italy's cinemas closed – 850 screens from a total of 1,830 nationwide – box office figures for last weekend saw receipts of only €2 million.

The same period last year saw figures in the region on €12 million.

Outside of China and South Korea, Italy has seen the largest outbreak of the virus, with 1,600 infections and 34 deaths.