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    China’s Holiday Box Office Sees Pricier Tickets, Drop in Audiences

    The decline in moviegoers, however, didn’t affect overall revenues.

    Chinese cinemas saw relatively less footfall during the Spring Festival holiday, which experts partly attributed to a rise in ticket prices.

    The number of tickets sold during the seven-day break starting Jan. 31 declined by nearly 14% compared with the same period in 2019, with average ticket prices jumping by about 18% from the pre-pandemic level, according to movie data provider Beacon. However, box office collection during the period remained strong, amassing 6 billion yuan ($943 million) — second only to last year’s record sales of 7.8 billion yuan.

    Box office takings during the holiday period were largely driven by the patriotic war movie “The Battle at Lake Changjin II,” which contributed about 42% of the total sales, followed by the comedy “Too Cool to Kill.” The war franchise’s first installment broke domestic records for the highest single-day takings when released during last year’s National Day holiday in October.

    The Spring Festival holiday is a prime time for the country’s film industry, with the holiday period accounting for almost 17% of last year’s total box office revenue, domestic ticketing platform Maoyan said Monday. With the effects of the pandemic still lingering, producers and movie theaters are increasingly relying on blockbusters released during holidays to make money.

    In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, some movie tickets sold for upwards of 100 yuan during this year’s Spring Festival, leading some social media users to complain that going to the movies with family during the holiday was becoming increasingly costly.

    “We are not complaining about high ticket prices, but the increasing ticket prices to watch bad movies,” wrote one user on microblogging platform Weibo. 

    Echoing that sentiment, Peng Kan, a post-doctoral fellow specializing in China’s film industry at Beijing Normal University, told Sixth Tone that people were less willing to go to the movies not only because of rising ticket prices but also due to a lack of quality new releases.

    “This year’s holiday releases were less attractive to audiences compared with last year … audiences seem to be a bit aesthetically tired of patriotic films,” Peng said, referring to how audiences flocked to last year’s big releases “Detective Chinatown 3” and “Hi, Mom.” “The main task of the film industry is to produce high-quality, rich, and diverse films.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Two women walk to a movie theater in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Feb. 6, 2022. People Visual)