China’s box office is making a comeback

Business & Technology

With government subsidies and an easing of pandemic restrictions, China’s movie theaters are hoping for a bumper summer box office.

Illustration by Alex Santafé

The resurgence of COVID-19 in March, and the resultant zero-COVID lockdowns, once again hit China’s movie industry hard: On March 11, many movie theaters around the country were forced to close their doors, and the nationwide operating rate was less than 50%.

But perhaps the long winter for the movie market in China is now over:

  • As of July 5, a total of 10,107 movie theaters across the country are open for business, and the operating rate nationwide is 83.3%.
  • On July 8, the Shanghai municipal government announced that movie theaters will be reopened after the city’s painful two-month lockdown.

The context

Aside from the easing of pandemic control measures, the recovery of the movie market comes on the heels of a variety of subsidies provided by the government at different levels. Nearly 20 provinces and cities in China laid out new stimulus measures to help the recovery of the movie industry, including tax relief, fee reductions, and other subsidies.

  • Hubei Province has promised to provide a subsidy of 30.14 million yuan ($4.5 million) for movie theaters in the province. A subsidy of 25 yuan ($3.7) per seat for a total of three months.
  • Guangdong province has allocated 28.83 million yuan ($4.3 million) from the provincial film fund to subsidize movie theaters in the province.
  • In Guangzhou, the relevant government departments have partnered with state-owned China Construction Bank to introduce low-interest loans for movie theaters.
  • In Shenzhen, some districts in the city provided rent reductions for movie theaters and issued movie vouchers for residents to boost demand.

The takeaway

Going for a movie has become almost impossible this year with strict pandemic control measures, but this summer, Chinese people might finally be able to take in a show, with some help from government subsidies.