by Xinhua writer Zhang Yunlong
BEIJING, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- In what critics are hailing as a further sign of the gradual recovery of the world's second-biggest box office market, following the downturn caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, an increasing number of major film productions are unveiling their theatrical release dates for China.
Christopher Nolan's latest sci-fi action feature film "Tenet," with a reported budget of more than 200 million U.S. dollars, is set to land in Chinese mainland theaters on Sept. 4, according to a Weibo post of Warner Bros.
"Inception," a 2010 film by the British director, is slated for an Aug. 28 re-release.
"Little Women," a Sony film whose Chinese mainland release was postponed due to COVID-19, has secured a new release date, Aug. 25.
It is a new feature film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel of the same name and is directed by Greta Gerwig, an American actress, screenwriter and film director.
"The Eight Hundred," a Chinese war epic film, is set to hit the big screen on Aug. 21. It will be the first major Chinese production to hit movie theaters since the COVID-19 outbreak.
"The development that major films, domestic or foreign, are landing in theaters, will give a boost to the restarting of the Chinese film industry and become a highlight of the global film market," Yin Hong, vice chairman of the China Film Association and a professor at Tsinghua University, told Xinhua.
After months-long closures meant to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, movie theaters were greenlighted to reopen from July 20 in parts of China deemed to be low-risk areas, with strict coronavirus containment measures being implemented.
The measures include a 30-percent limit on the number of people attending each show, with audience members who are strangers sitting at least one meter apart.
Most films screened to date have been re-releases or small-scale domestic and international titles, but the weekly box-office sales have posted robust growth.
Chinese mainland box-office revenue for the seven days from July 27 to Aug. 2 totaled 197 million yuan (28 million U.S. dollars), up 79 percent compared with the previous week, according to figures compiled by China Film News.
Theaters saw 6.9 million moviegoers during the same period, up 65 percent week-on-week.
Among the re-releases was Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar." A re-run of the 2014 film from Sunday has generated box-office revenue of more than 50 million yuan as of Friday, bringing its total Chinese mainland box office worth of 800 million yuan, according to Maoyan, a movie-ticketing platform.
The total sales figure for the two weeks starting July 20 was 330 million yuan, a low number compared with last year's annual total of more than 64 billion yuan. However, given the attendance cap in place to contain COVID-19, the figures for the first two weeks are encouraging and suggest growing enthusiasm among Chinese moviegoers, according to Ming Zhenjiang, head of the China Film Producers' Association.
On the Maoyan platform, as of Friday, more than 330,000 people had expressed interest in watching the movie "The Eight Hundred," which depicts Chinese soldiers defending of a warehouse against the invading Japanese army during the Battle of Shanghai in 1937.
Directed by Guan Hu, the critically-acclaimed filmmaker behind the 2015 film "Mr. Six," "The Eight Hundred" is the first Chinese film entirely shot with IMAX cameras.
"This is really exciting, great news!" wrote a Weibo user nicknamed Tangqingmingylsy, after learning news of the film's release date. "Hopefully, the film will give a great boost to the film industry, hard hit by COVID-19."
The increased and continuous supply of new, high-quality films is one of the key measures necessary to encourage people to go to cinemas and revive the film market, said Ming in an article carried by China Film News.
"China's movie market has already started its gradual recovery," Yin said, adding that a recovering film industry will help lift consumer confidence and also promote the development of the catering, retail and tourism sectors.
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