China has closed thousands of cinemas across the country in response to the outbreak of the Coronavirus which broke out in the city of Wuhan and has now killed 80 people.
A day before the closure, Chinese leading studios and distributors of the major blockbusters that were expected to be released ahead of the Chinese New Year (Jan. 25), cancelled their films’ releases.
China’s box office was set to rake in 1.4 billion yuan ($210 million) in two days, until the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Chinese New Year is the commercial high point of the cinema industry year in mainland China, with well over $1 billion of box office revenue normally anticipated to flow through turnstiles in a week of celebration and family gatherings.
It is also the peak time of year for internal travel when typically half of China’s 1.4 billion population return to their hometowns to be reunited with family.
Cinema chains closing their theatres include Wanda, Dadi, Lumiere Pavilions, Emperor, Bona and CGV. But, for the moment, the closures are not nationwide, nor total. China counted some 70,000 screens in 11,000 complexes at the end of 2019.
Riley financial analyst Eric Wold said that; “While there is always the chance that this is a short-term reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak, and these theatres could re-open shortly should conditions improve in the country, we would not be surprised if these closures were more lengthy, to err on the safer side,” he wrote in an analyst note.
According to reports, China has confirmed that it is dealing with a total of 1,372 cases of coronavirus nationally. So far, 39 have been discharged.
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has held a special government meeting to address the spread of the virus. Xi warned of a “grave situation” while also adding that the virus was “accelerating its speed”.