As sales in North America and Europe are being battered once again thanks to the Omicron variant, China’s theatrical film sector is returning to set new box office records.
The country’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday, always a delight for local studios and exhibitors, begins on February 1 and analysts believe a bumper crop of films Potential blockbuster hits – eight local titles currently scheduled for simultaneous release this year – could lift the market to unprecedented heights.
During the Lunar New Year in 2021, total ticket sales hit a record $1.2 billion, with the family comedy Hi Mom led the way with a final gross of $821 million (Wanda .’s comedy Detective Chinatown 3 not far behind with 685 million USD). Ticket sales during the seven-day holiday season amounted to a whopping 16.6% of China’s total year-to-date box office, and the whole of February accounted for 25% of the year’s revenue (Unfortunately. for Hollywood, Beijing blocks all foreign films from being released during the family holiday period – a practice US trade negotiators have lamented with little effect for more than a decade – because so all the profits go only to the local Chinese industry).
Analysts are expecting much of the same in 2022. “This year’s Chinese New Year season could hit a new high of $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion ($8 billion to RMB 8.5 billion) ,” said Rance Pow, president of the film industry, at consultancy Artisan Gateway.
The head in charge is Battle of Changjin Lake 2: Water Gate Bridge, the second installment in a nationalist war story about China’s actual victory over the United States in a pivotal battle in the Korean War. Co-directed by hit Chinese trio Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam, the franchise’s first film was released only last September and has already become a grossing film. China’s all-time high with $901.5 million. Backed by China’s state Global Times The newspaper reported January 23 that the film is leading the pre-ticket race with $5.64 million with just over a week left before its opening date. The store has gone so far as to forecast that Battle at Changjin Lake 2 will become the first Chinese film to earn more than 1 billion dollars (6.5 billion yuan)
However, China’s box office results are notoriously difficult to predict with confidence, as the frontrunners are often thwarted by the negative audience reaction in the early hours after release, and the The dark horse candidate then galloped forward. “Social word of mouth in China can be a powerful determinant of a film’s commercial success, and the market has shown adept at adjusting to audience preferences if the film Pre-season favorites don’t come out quickly,” explains Pow.
Other top contenders this year include drama Beauty scene, director Wen Muye’s sequel to his 2018 hit, Die to live ($451 million); and comedy – drama about the trip Only fools rush in, from a former blogger turned fan favorite director Han Han (his previous release, Pegasus, earning $256 million in 2019); A biopic about the Korean War by local director Zhang Yimou, Sharp Hunter; and comedic caper Too cool to kill, from a relative newcomer, Xing Wenxiong; among many other things.
The only major Western entertainment business that regularly participates in the Lunar New Year holiday is Imax, which operates more than 750 theaters in the country. Each year, the Canadian exhibitor places a bet by choosing one or two titles to include in its giant screen format. In 2020, Imax selected three expected winners, Battle at Changjin Lake 2 (shot for Imax), Beauty scene and Han Han’s Only fools come in.