(Variety) More than 80% of movie tickets in China are sold online or via mobile device, one of the world’s highest penetration rates. That gives the country’s ticketing agencies unusually accurate insight into audience behavior and film tracking.
After the early part of last year was wiped out by the coronavirus, how strong is the theatrical industry’s recovery?
Liu Zhenfei, analyst at leading ticketing agency Maoyan ran his slide rule over the upcoming Chinese New Year peak season and shared his analysis with Variety.
Variety: What is Maoyan’s overall forecast for the Chinese New Year week’s box office? Higher or lower than in 2019?
Liu: The data from Maoyan “Want to Watch” reflects audience expectations for the upcoming films during the week-long Chinese New Year holiday. And it is encouraging. “Want to Watch” numbers for “Detective Chinatown 3” exceeded 4 million. No other film has generated more than 2 million “Want to Watch” clicks before. The movie was originally scheduled to release during the 2020 Chinese New Year holiday but was withdrawn on January 23, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It had generated more than 2 million “Want to Watch” clicks since last year’s Chinese New Year holiday, which shows that the audience’s anticipations for it have not dropped but rather have increased.
The number of “Want to Watch” clicks of another upcoming film “Hi, Mom” also exceeded 1 million, making it the fifth (local) movie to achieve that total.
The pre-sale of films for the 2021 Chinese New Year holiday also showed strength. The upcoming blockbusters achieved a total of RMB 150 million for the first day of the Chinese New Year in the first three days of the 14-day-long pre-sale period. performance next week.
How are the presales for the big seven Chinese New Year movies shaking out?
“Detective Chinatown 3” had seen pre-sale box office revenue exceeding RMB 100 million in the first 36 hours after the pre-sale for the 2021 Spring Festival was officially launched – a record. and it looks to account for around 70% of the first day’s business. Around 94,000 screenings have been scheduled for “Detective Chinatown 3” on the holiday’s first day. The runner-up was Chinese comedy film “Hi, Mom,” with RMB 23 million generated in the first three days of the pre-sale. The third to fifth places are “A Writer’s Odyssey,” “The Yinyang Master,” and “Endgame.” The two animated films” “Boonie Bears: The Wild Life” and “New Gods: Nezha Reborn” are also strongly competitive.
Does it make sense for so many movies to be released head-to-head, or would they have been better advised to release in a less crowded time slot?
The average number of movies watched was 1.22 in the 2018 Chinese New Year holiday and 1.23 over the 2019 holiday. Movies that choose to release in the same time slot will face competition that could reduce the upper limits of the market. Thus, from an overall market perspective, it might be more optimal for blockbusters’ to be scheduled more evenly.
However, from an individual film’s perspective, the Chinese New Year holiday is the movie market’s peak season. Recent blockbusters that released in this season have included: “The Wandering Earth,” generating more than RMB 4 billion; “Operation Red Sea,” “Detective Chinatown 2,” and “The Mermaid” with more than RMB 3 billion each; “Monster Hunt 2” and “Crazy Alien” with more than RMB 2 billion each; “Kung Fu Yoga” and “Pegasus” with more than RMB 1 billion to their name.
Going to the movies during the Chinese New Year has become a social trend. And the number of films participating in the Chinese New Year movie season has increased over recent years. Eight movies released in the 2019 Chinese New Year holiday, this year’s holiday will begin with the release of seven titles on the first day of the Chinese New Year. Our data shows that the top three films can account for 80% of box office.
There is a debate about whether films drive the market or whether the market drives the films. “Avengers 4,” which had 1.85 million “Want to Watch” clicks, was a rare case of a single film driving the entire market. Most films still need to use the market momentum, so it is naturally a good choice to release movies in a peak season. But distributors must be rational about their films’ strengths.
Is demand for theatre tickets being pulled away by online offerings, notably SVOD companies which have been asked to remove their pay-walls?
Online and offline channels for movie watching will coexist and develop harmoniously from a long-term perspective, they represent choices made by the audience in different scenarios. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese audiences were unable to watch movies in cinemas for nearly half a year, which accelerated the audience’s choice and habit of watching movies online. According to a survey conducted by Maoyan Research Institute in 2020, only about 25% of respondents considered watching movies online as their first preference. The proportion was higher for respondents under25 years old. The survey also pointed to huge market for theatrical film in third-and fourth-tier cities.
What other factors are at play over the CNY period?
The current epidemic prevention policies, notably the guidance against inter province travel during this year’s Chinese New Year, means that the holiday movie season will be significantly different from the previous years.
Our data shows that in previous years 38% of holiday period ticket sales were generated by people not in their home town. It is a family or group experience and many tickets were bought in batches of three or more. This year’s “staying local” guidelines will mean fewer people returning to their family home. But those people staying put will have more time for entertainment consumption and might watch more films than normal! For the overall box office performance, the changes represent a geographic transfer of business rather than a net loss.
Source: Variety by Patrick Frater