As China works to reopen its movie theaters and rebuild its local film industry, the country is turning to some superheroes for help.
All four of Marvel’s Avengers movies are set to be rereleased in the country in the coming days and weeks. Joining the effort will be past Hollywood blockbusters including Avatar and Warner Bros.’ Christopher Nolan films Inception and Interstellar.
The blockbusters haven’t yet received official rerelease dates, but a source at one of the China’s nationwide cinema operators tells The Hollywood Reporter that they will be made available to movie theaters “basically, whenever the DCPs reach the cinemas.”
After placing strict restrictions on hundreds of millions of people, China appears to have successfully gained the upper hand against the coronavirus. On Wednesday, the Chinese province of Hubei, where the coronavirus pandemic got its start, began allowing its estimated 60 million residents to resume travel. Over the past week, some cinemas across the country, along with other public-facing businesses such as restaurants and shopping malls, began tentative experiments to reopen.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were an estimated 600 to 700 Chinese movie theaters open for business. Many of the theaters were smaller operators with just several screens, located in remote regions of the country that were less hard hit by the epidemic during its peak in February. No nationwide Chinese cinema chains have announced a resumption of business yet, but more screens are switching on by the day.
China’s efforts to reboot its cinema exhibition infrastructure offers a preview of the challenges other countries currently in lockdown — such as the U.S., European nations and all of India — will likely face when they eventually come out of the other end of the epidemic. China’s theater operators have faced two interrelated difficulties: Convincing customers it is safe to return to the multiplex in large numbers and convincing distributors that there are enough customers to resume marketing and releasing their most valuable film titles — and without the latter, it would seem hard to achieve the former.
Over the past week, China’s Film Bureau has introduced measures to help address the bottleneck. In a deal hashed out with Chinese studios last week, state-backed distributor China Film Group said it would allow local theaters to rerelease a raft of past local blockbusters — including Wolf Warrior 2, The Wandering Earth and Wolf Totem, among others — while giving cinemas the right to keep 100 percent of ticket revenue. Local producers and distributors of the selected films agreed to forgo their usual 43 percent cut of sales as a “charity effort” to help their financially battered exhibition partners get back on their feet.