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    China’s Labor Day Box Office Hits Near-Record Highs

    Increased ticket sales in smaller cities and an uptick in older audience attendance underscored a growing demand for family-oriented films during the five-day holiday.

    From an action thriller about Chinese peacekeeping forces to a comedy about a dying man’s final escapades, last week’s Labor Day holiday marked a significant rebound for China’s film industry.

    According to data from industry platform Maoyan, the five-day holiday period earned 1.53 billion yuan ($211.7 million) in revenue, with 37.77 million tickets sold. While a modest increase from the previous year, earnings still ranked second only to the Labor Day record of 1.67 billion yuan in 2021.

    One of the country’s major public holidays, the Labor Day holiday plays a crucial role in China’s film industry, alongside the weeklong Spring Festival and the National Day holiday. After several tough years, the industry has begun to revive, with authorities encouraging the public to return to movie theaters and implementing tax breaks for theater operators.

    Of the eight films released over the holiday, spanning action, comedy, romance, and animation, five surpassed the 100 million yuan benchmark, according to Maoyan. The lineup included six domestic films and two Japanese films, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spy x Family: Code White.”

    While the action film “Formed Police Unit” led the box office during the holiday, earning 406 million yuan by May 5, “The Last Frenzy,” which centers on a middle-aged man facing life-altering decisions due to an incurable illness, has since surpassed it in overall earnings, grossing 520 million yuan.

    “As the season’s only comedy, (‘The Last Frenzy’) taps into the audience’s desire for light-hearted viewing during the holiday,” Chen Jin, an analyst at the film market database, Beacon, told the Shanghai-based outlet The Paper.

    However, another comedy, “Nothing Can’t Be Undone by a HotPot,” starring A-lister Yang Mi about four strangers entangled in a murder investigation, postponed its release after experiencing sluggish initial sales.

    Chen also highlighted the increased diversity in audience distribution, with ticket sales in third and fourth-tier cities now accounting for nearly 40% of the total. Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu provinces lead in box office revenues.

    This holiday period also saw the highest proportion of audience members aged 40 and above compared to previous years, indicating a sustained increase in demand for family-oriented entertainment, according to Chen.

    Liu Xiaolong, a 24-year-old from the southern Guangdong province, watched Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning animated fantasy “Howl’s Moving Castle” when it was re-released in China on April 30.

    Though he had previously seen it online, Liu sought to experience the nostalgia on the big screen. “I often watch movies online, but I am more engaged when watching in the cinema, with its immersive atmosphere, sound effects, and bigger screen,” Liu told Sixth Tone.

    Additional reporting: Ding Xiaoyan; editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: At a movie theater in Fuyang, Anhui province, May 2, 2024. IC)