China’s Wuhan Coronavirus is having negative effects on many industries, and one of the hardest hit is China’s film industry, with theaters sitting empty and productions paused, causing box office losses of at least $1.5 billion USD as of the end of January, when the country was instead expected to surpass the United States this year in terms of box office sales.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, total Chinese ticket revenue for the past 20 days is $3.9 million, compared to the $1.52 billion taken in by the box office for the same period last year.
China’s theaters shuttered their doors beginning January 24 in response to the outbreak, which coincided with the country’s Lunar New Year holiday, the biggest movie going week in the entire world.
On the filmmaking side, production on many tv programs, documentaries and movies has been halted “indefinitely” and distribution companies are unable to confirm when new film offerings will resume production or be available for distribution. Progress on anticipated hits, such as Jojo Rabbit, 1917 and Dolittle, among others are affected.
Film industry executives are asking for the China central government to provide financial support, (which Beijing has committed to without stating specifics) and are also proposing an extension of the Labor Day holiday in May, which could make up for box office losses.
A 2017 Deloitte report projected that China’s film industry would in 2020 surpass the United States in box office revenue and audience numbers. Variety said that a senior U.S. film executive told it that, “If, God forbid, we’re still talking about this virus by summer and theaters are not operating and [China] is in a form of economic paralysis, that impact is way beyond a movie.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Chinese government has been circulating surveys to local film executives asking how the industry has been hurt by the current coronavirus outbreak, and what the government can do to help.