Movie market scores new high during Spring Festival

By Xu Fan | | Updated: 2024-02-19

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People look at movie posters at a cinema in Shapingba, Chongqing, on Sunday. SUN KAIFANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Spring Festival ended on an uplifting note for the movie market this year as it shattered multiple previous records to become the highest-grossing Chinese New Year holiday in the history of domestic cinema.

Statistics from the China Film Administration, the nation's top industry regulator, showed that during the holiday period from Feb 10 to Saturday, the country grossed a whopping 8.02 billion yuan ($1.12 billion) from 163 million tickets, surging 18.47 percent and 26.36 percent, respectively, compared with the same period last year.

Seizing a lot of attention due to actress-director Jia Ling's weight loss of up to 50 kilograms in one year, YOLO — a comedy recounting Jia's portrayal of an oversized woman striving to become her better self — earned 2.72 billion yuan, topping the festival box-office charts.

Pegasus 2, the sequel to a 2019 blockbuster racing film by writer-director Han Han, ranked second at the box office with 2.4 billion yuan. Boonie Bears: Time Twist, the latest installment in the Boonie Bears animated film series, took the third spot with 1.39 billion yuan, and Zhang Yimou's Article 20 ranked fourth with 1.33 billion yuan.

A report from Maoyan, one of the country's largest ticketing services, revealed that 39.2 percent of the audiences purchased movie tickets while returning to their hometowns or traveling, which was the highest in the past four years.

Additionally, up to 58.9 percent of the total box-office revenue was earned in the third- and fourth-tier cities, the highest in five years.

Despite a total of eight movies opening simultaneously on the first day of the Year of the Dragon, four titles, or half of them, canceled screenings one after another starting on Feb 14, announcing that the screenings would resume at a more suitable time.

Viva La Vida, a moving tale about two lovers fighting severe diseases, was the first to make the unusual decision, followed by Andy Lau-starring The Movie Emperor and the animated film Huang Pi: God of Money on Feb 16, and then another animated feature, Ba Jie, on Feb 17.

News and reviews about the highest-grossing blockbusters and the unprecedented scale of cancellations stirred widespread discussions online, accumulating a total of 46 billion clicks on related topics on the popular social media platform Sina Weibo.

Yin Tengyu, a senior analyst with Maoyan's research division, said these instances served as a reminder for Chinese film companies to exercise greater caution when choosing appropriate screening times, as well as assessing whether the themes of the movies align with the holiday atmosphere.

"However, the overall performance of the movie market was quite satisfactory. In addition to the box-office success, the ratings of the festival blockbusters were mostly high," said Yin, adding that the robust start of the Chinese New Year bodes well for the domestic film industry, which is expected to see faster and better recovery.