China Box Office: ‘One Piece Film Red’ Wins Second Weekend as COVID Policy Overhaul Has Muted Impact
12th December 2022

Official announcements that China is backing away from the harshest elements of the country’s strict Zero-COVID policy have yet to make much difference to the country’s cinema box office. But the coming release of “Avatar: The Way of Water” may change that.

Japanese animation “One Piece Film Red” held on to top place for the second weekend in a three-day session that was lower than the previous frame.

Data from consultancy firm Artisan Gateway showed “One Piece Film Red” to have scored $4.8 million (RMB33.5 million) in mainland China between Friday and Sunday, giving it a ten-day cumulative score of $18.1 million (RMB127 million).

“Detective Conan The Movie: The Bride of Halloween” took second place with $2.4 million. That advanced its cumulative to $22.7 million since releasing on Nov. 18.

“The Tipping Point” earned $1.3 million in third place. It now has a cumulative of $23.6 million since release on Nov. 11.

National Day hit film “Homecoming” added $930,000 over the weekend. It now has $227 million, accumulated since Sept. 30. In fifth place, “Farewell Beijing” added $450,000 over the weekend, lifting its total to $7.2 million.

On Wednesday last week, China’s State Council unveiled a range of measures to reduce the burdens of anti-COVID controls on people’s lives and the economy, though the moves fall short of a formal end to the “Dynamic Zero COVID” policy.

Many commentators have been quick to spot green shoots. And the shares of many cinema-related companies have jumped sharply higher. The latest weekend box office data shows that the impact for the cinema industry was not instantaneous. After three years of top-down warnings about the dangers of close physical encounters, Chinese consumers may be understandably wary about crowing back into theaters.

The nationwide weekend box office aggregate was a lowly $11.5 million, down from the previous weekend’s $13.1 million and typical of the rangebound levels of activity since October that have reflected localized COVID controls and a damaging dearth of meaningful new release titles.

The current week will see a ramp up of activity towards the Friday release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which is not only a rare U.S. import, it is also a highly-anticipated fantasy that will well suit China’s array of premium large format and 3D-equipped screens. And, unusually, it has had more than three weeks to get the marketing message out.

From Monday, the original “Avatar” is getting a two-day re-release. On Wednesday, “Avatar: The Way of Water” will enjoy a day of previews, followed by midnight screenings on Thursday.

Reporting pre-sales, local ticket sales service, Maoyan shows “Avatar 2” leading the box office on those two days. Similarly, pre-sales for the weekend show “Avatar 2” dominating proceedings with a more than 95% market share. Pre-sales to the end of Sunday currently total RMB123 million ($17.5 million)

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