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Cinemas see bump in box office receipts

Movie ticket sales up as viewers flock to theaters to enjoy films during holiday

By XU FAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-15 07:50

People look at movie posters at a cinema in Shapingba, Chongqing, on Sunday. SUN KAIFANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Bolstered by a string of blockbusters, the Spring Festival holiday– one of the country's most lucrative box office seasons – has witnessed a robust surge in ticket revenue this year, exceeding industry estimations, some insiders said.

From Feb 10, the start of the holiday, to Wednesday, cinemas grossed over 5.7 billion yuan ($792.4 million). The take represents a 21 percent increase over the same five-day period last year, according to the movie information live tracker Beacon. The holiday will end on Saturday.

YOLO, the second directorial effort of Jia Ling, a comedic actress-turned-director, has topped the festival box office charts with its heartfelt tale of an oversized woman regaining self-confidence through boxing, resonating widely with young audiences yearning to become better versions of themselves.

In earlier interviews, Jia revealed that she had increased her weight to around 105 kilograms and then spent a year losing 50 kilograms through a strict diet and intense exercise to fit the movie's plotline and character design. The film, whose title means "You Only Live Once", has raked in 1.93 billion yuan.

Pegasus 2, the sequel to novelist-turned-director Han Han's 2019 movie Pegasus, is the second highest-grossing film so far during the holiday, raking in 1.69 billion yuan, followed by the animated feature Boonie Bears: Time Twist with 997 million yuan.

While Pegasus 2, with actor Shen Teng reprising his role as a former racing car champion, won over moviegoers with a tale of an underdog's incredible victory, Boonie Bears: Time Twist, the 10th installment of the titular franchise, attracted many children due to the enduring popularity of the bear siblings and their human friend, a logger who takes on a new job as a programmer in the latest movie.

Marking prolific director Zhang Yimou's return to the Spring Festival market after Full River Red, the highest-grossing film during the same period last year, Article 20 – a movie exploring the definition of justifiable defense – is in fourth position with 881 million yuan.

Viva La Vida, which follows two young individuals' struggles against severe diseases, is in fifth place with 87 million, followed by the comedy The Movie Emperor, a poignant satire of the domestic movie industry starring iconic Hong Kong actor Andy Lau that has taken in 72 million yuan.

Eight new movies were simultaneously released on the first day of the Year of the Dragon, and they have collectively sold more than 100 million tickets, according to Beacon.

"The market performance is better than the earlier estimations of most industry insiders," said Zhi Feina, a veteran observer and professor at the Chinese National Academy of Arts.

She estimated that the overall box office receipts during this year's eight-day Spring Festival – which is one day longer than in previous years– will surpass 8 billion yuan, exceeding last year's weeklong holiday earnings of 6.76 billion yuan.

The most notable changes include the reduction of the average ticket price, the rising enthusiasm of theatergoers in third- and fourth-tier cities – who accounted for over 50 percent of the entire market – and the movies' themes being more relatable to the lives of ordinary Chinese people, said Zhi, adding that Chinese authorities have also endeavored to boost movie consumption.

On average, movie ticket prices are 50.7 yuan during this year's holiday, down 3 percent from 52.3 yuan last year, according to Beacon.

Earlier this month, the China Film Administration, the country's top industry regulator, and the People's Bank of China guided 11 financial institutions to issue over 30 million yuan in digital currencies to help boost electronic movie ticket purchases during the festival.

Rao Shuguang, president of the China Film Critics Association, said that most of the highest-grossing movies are comedies, proof that such light-hearted tales cater to the festival atmosphere and hence appeal to many filmgoers.

He added that the future challenge for the domestic film industry is how to attain stable and sustainable development and persuade Chinese people to walk into cinemas regularly, not only during big holidays.

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