China’s box office figures have continued to see a decline this Spring Festival season despite the release of two major blockbusters.
According to data published by Jiemian News, cumulative ticket sales in the days leading up to the Spring Festival hit 359 million, creeping above last year’s figures from the same period but still falling far short of 2021’s sales. Data from the week of Spring Festival itself was even less optimistic, showing a marked downward trend over the last two years, although there are still a few days remaining until Spring Festival is officially over so these figures may change slightly.
This year’s Spring Festival film season saw the release of the much-anticipated sequel to 2019’s “The Wandering Earth”, based on the short story by the globally recognised homegrown sci-fi author, Liu Cixin. “Wandering Earth” is the fifth highest-grossing film of all time within China, ensuring a high turnout for its sequel this time around. As expected, “Wandering Earth 2” was well received. Among reviewers on Douban, 42% gave it 5 stars and several commenters credited the first film with elevating the Chinese sci-fi genre to international attention.
“Full River Red”, the latest offering from the renowned Fifth Generation director, Zhang Yimou, received less stellar reviews with most reviewers giving it 4 stars. Despite this, the historical drama/comedy has now overtaken “The Wandering Earth 2” in ticket sales, possibly owing in part to the popularity of one of its stars Jackson Yee, who is well-known as a member of the wildly successful boy band TFBoys.
Ticket prices were reduced this year in hopes of avoiding last year’s slump, but whilst the move may have buffered the downward trend it was not enough to reverse it. As in many countries across the world, China’s film industry is struggling to convince viewers to spend money on cinema trips after lockdowns have forced them out of the habit. Combined with long-established streaming services like Youku and the shutting of huge numbers of cinemas across the country, patriotic blockbusters are not enough of a draw.
Although Spring Festival is nearly over, the accompanying month-long winter vacation for school and university students across China still has a week or more left, giving plenty of time for young people to kickstart stronger box office figures for the Year of the Rabbit.