Some 260 movie theaters in Beijing will receive payments from a “special development fund” of 3 million yuan ($424,000), the city’s finance bureau announced Tuesday. The move is intended to help the struggling businesses as Beijing grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections.
The China Film Administration imposes a 5% tax on the domestic box office, diverting this revenue toward subsidizing film productions and building new movie theatres.
According to the announcement, the 3 million yuan fund was generated from box office revenue from Jan. 1 to Jan. 23 — the day Wuhan, the city in central China where the coronavirus was first detected, went into lockdown.
China’s film industry has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-May, the central government approved the reopening of certain indoor venues including cinemas, theaters, and karaoke facilities. Weeks later, however, such venues in several cities including Shanghai and Chengdu were ordered to shut down again amid fears of a rebound.
The pandemic has resulted in estimated box office losses of more than 30 billion yuan, according to the National Film Bureau. While the payments should provide some relief for cinemas, some commentators worry they’ll only be a drop in the bucket toward reviving China’s flagging film industry.
“Each cinema can receive 10,000 yuan on average, which is only enough to pay rent or the salaries of a few staff,” read one comment on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo under a related media post.
“Getting some money back is nice,” read another comment under the same post. “But it’d be more helpful if staff at movie theatres were allowed to return to work.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A worker sanitizes a theater in Shenyang, Liaoning province, March 25, 2020. People Visual)