Holiday entertainment prepared for Wuhan outbreak impact

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 22, 2020
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China's entertainment industry could be affected by the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus during the upcoming Spring Festival, but is actively responding to audience demands.

Fans attend singer Jeff Chang's concert in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, Jan. 1, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Damai.cn]

Chinese health authorities said 440 cases of new coronavirus-related pneumonia had been confirmed in 13 provinces and municipalities across the country by the end of Monday, and nine people have died. The source of the spreading disease is thought to be Wuhan in Hubei province.

Damai.cn, one of the biggest Chinese ticketing platforms for concerts, stage dramas and sports events, announced the emergency response to possible audience fears of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation during the annual week-long festival.

The platform pledged an unconditional refund of any unused tickets to shows held in Wuhan during the holiday, and will help anyone, seeking the same treatment in other virus-attacked cities to communicate with local promoters to get a refund. Damai.cn also promised an unconditional refund on any tickets bought by Wuhan residents going to other cities to see certain shows. 

"As for how to deal with the shows in and after February, Damai is waiting for the instructions from authorities and will tell you immediately. Please be patient for our updates," the statement said, while wishing everyone safe and happy new year, and expecting the epidemic situation to ease soon.

The news of the spread of the new coronavirus-related pneumonia is already having some influence on the most profitable Spring Festival film season that was expected to set new box office records. Medical experts have warned people against going out to crowded places, which naturally includes cinemas.

On Monday and Tuesday, many stocks of Chinese film companies plummeted on domestic stock markets. Some theaters are providing convenience to moviegoers to refund their already booked movie tickets, in order to respond to the demands of some who'd rather stay safe at home. 

Nan Rumin, a box office expert, said presales of the seven Spring Festival films, "Detective Chinatown 3", "Lost in Russia", "The Rescue", "Leap", "Vanguard", "Legend of Deification" and "Boonie Bears: The Wild Life", were obviously slowing from the initial record-breaking pace.

"There could be 20% - 30% loss of box office revenue during the holiday due to the coronavirus," he estimated, saying it is impossible to achieve many fresh box office records under current circumstances. However, he believed that, in first and second tier cities and those not affected so far by outbreaks, the negative impact would be very limited. "Now may be the bad time, but a good film always can win an audience with its quality, and can still turn it around in a long term."

So far, the first day of Spring Festival has witnessed more than 366 million yuan in box office presales for all the films, still offering a possibility to break some box office records.

Wuhan had total gross of 1.52 billion yuan from screenings of all the films in 2019, accounting for 2.45% of China's annual total gross of films. According to latest statistics from China's consulting firm EntGroup, the city is indeed being affected currently, and theaters there have sold fewer tickets than those in many other second-tier provincial capitals such as Suzhou, Chengdu and Shijiazhuang.

"A film has its own life, and there may be luck or bad luck, " Chen Sicheng, director of the much-anticipated "Detective Chinatown 3", adopting a more positive tone in his microblog. "As creators, what we can do is trying to make a good film and achieve deserved promotion, not to do harm to fellow filmmakers and try our best to boost the industry. Now, we can only pray... but I believe in my country to tackle the epidemic situation, and I believe in the audience to see the films."

Experts said offline entertainment may be hit, but the online sector during the Spring Festival could be even more prosperous, such as online games, video streaming and short video apps.

So far, it is not known whether other cultural events, such as popular temple fairs, will be canceled, but for the famous landmarks, the effect could be small; for example, the Forbidden City in Beijing has announced it sold out all the tickets (80,000 available every day) during the Spring Festival holiday.

Wuhan also has taken a string of measures to tighten the control and monitoring of outbound travelers in an effort to curb the spread of new coronavirus-related pneumonia. Outbound tour groups have been banned, and local police are conducting spot checks on inbound and outbound private passenger vehicles for live poultry or wild animals, according to the municipal health commission.

A number of domestic airlines, tourism agencies, railway departments and hotels have introduced measures to announce that passengers infected with the new coronavirus pneumonia, as well as passengers who originally planned to go to Wuhan or travel outside the city, can get refund of their tickets and preorders for free.

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