Lack of new film releases amid COVID-19 resurgence

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 1, 2022
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As the COVID-19 resurgence continues to rage, most films set for the annual May Day holiday release have canceled their plans, with only three feature films releasing during the holiday.

Actor Qin Hao and actress Ji Jiahe attend a virtual premiere of "The Bad Guys," April 26, 2022. [Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures]

"The Bad Guys," the DreamWorks animated feature directed by Pierre Perifel, opened across the Chinese mainland on April 29, the only new Hollywood movie to release during the vacation. The film is loosely based on the children's book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey. Set in a city where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist, it tells the story of a gang of criminal animals who, upon being caught during a heist, pretend to attempt to reform themselves as model citizens as a new villain devises his plans.

The film features actor Qin Hao and actress Ji Jiahe, known better by her stage name Chuinalisha, who voices a wolf and a shark, respectively, in the Mandarin-dubbed version. The English version stars the voices of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, and Awkwafina.

Due to the outbreak starting to emerge in Beijing, Universal Pictures had to cancel the planned theatrical premiere and instead hold a virtual premiere. 

As of April 28, "The Bad Guys" had grossed a worldwide total of $92.22 million at box offices before its China release. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it also holds a favorable rating of 87% based on 145 reviews.

But its prospects in China seem grim amid the ongoing film market crisis. On April 27, only 54.82% of all Chinese cinemas were still running. The nationwide weekday total of all films has fallen to less than 8 million ($1.2 million) yuan a day, according to the ticketing platform Maoyan. Beijing, a giant contributor to the national box office, delivered another blow by announcing on April 29 that it would shut down all cinemas and entertainment venues during the holiday amid the COVID-19 resurgence. 

The only two other films joining the May Day holiday film season are the much-anticipated Chinese romantic film "Stay With Me" and a family drama about a female boxer, "Shallow." There will also be some advanced screenings of the documentary film "Captain Qomolangma," whose official nationwide release date is May 13. Furthermore, there will be a re-release of the 2020 film "Coffee or Tea?" during the holiday.

Meanwhile, legal drama "The Procurator," drama "Farewell, Beijing," and two comedies "Post Truth" and "Give Me Five," once deemed as front runners for the May Day holiday, announced they would delay their release dates as did two small-budget animations.

Posters of four foreign films announcing they have extended their runs in the Chinese film market. [Images provided to]

Spring Festival's blockbusters "Snipers" and "The Battle at Lake Changjin II" and recent releases "The Batman," "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," and "Ambulance" will continue to fill the market over the holiday. Universal Pictures announced it would distribute "Marry Me" and "Downton Abbey: A New Era" in China on May 13 and May 20, and it has started to beef up the promotion for juggernaut sequel "Jurassic World: Dominion," though no release date has been set.

Several Chinese films, including romance "My Blue Summer" and crime thriller "The Fallen Bridge," now have release dates in late May and early June. Still, their fates depend on the evolution of future epidemic prevention and control.

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