Spring Festival is typically the most lucrative time slot in terms of theatrical release for China. 2020 has been an unfortunate exception due to the coronavirus outbreak. To put things into perspective, China’s box office on the first day of the Spring Festival in 2019 was RMB141 million, this year it was is a mere RMB1.8 million.
Since a majority of the blockbusters intended to hit theaters during Spring Festival didn’t (read more here), they will soon pursue other time slots, and in turn, strenuous rescheduling overall of release dates are bound to take place.
Other films set to release in February or March will perhaps consider rescheduling too, as most predict theaters will hardly gain any traction within Q1 due to the ongoing repercussion of the epidemic. For example, the Chinese animation Agent Backkom: Kings Bear set to release on the Lantern Festival and The Enigma of Arrival set for Valentine’s Day.
Chinese films may be able to adjust swiftly, but imported films, namely Oscar nominees opting to greet Chinese audiences right after the awards, won’t likely have that flexibility due to importing policy procedures. Furthermore, it is unknown as to whether or not certain films would consider releasing in sync with their North American release dates in March anymore, such as Pixar’s Onward, Paramount’s A Quiet Place 2, and the live action Mulan.
No doubt, many films will be aiming for a spot during the peak period of summer vacation. Though, a slate of highly anticipated candidates that will potentially be released that time are already queued up, including Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, Sony Picture’s Morbius, and the first film of the Fengshen Trilogy. The May holiday and Chinese National Day holiday will certainly be crowded as well, and imported films such as Marvel’s Black Widow, with its North America release date on May 1st, might need to step aside and make room for Chinese films.
The fact that film and TV productions are on halt till who knows when will further delay and complicate schedules.
Needless to say, competition will surely intensify on the theatrical front this year in China.