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Moviegoers in China Eager to Return to Cinemas, Survey Says

The mood among Chinese film fans appears to be improving, with 72 percent of respondents saying they are “eager to return to cinemas after they reopen.” That’s up from 54 percent who said so four weeks prior.

Chinese online ticketing service Maoyan Entertainment released a report Tuesday suggesting that moviegoers in the Middle Kingdom are growing more and more eager to return to cinemas after nearly three months of coronavirus-forced closures.

The survey was jointly conducted by the China Film Association and Maoyan at the end of March to learn the impact of the pandemic on Chinese consumers’ lives, their willingness to return to movie theaters once they reopen, and key factors that would drive movie lovers to go back to cinemas.

The top-line finding was that 72 percent of respondents said they were “eager to return to cinemas after they reopen.” That was up from 54 percent of respondents who said the same thing when Maoyan conducted a similar survey in late February.

Maoyan, along with Alibaba’s Tiaopiaopiao service, is one of the most widely used ticketing platforms in China, where over 90 percent of movie tickets are sold via apps or online. The company is hardly a disinterested party when it comes to the reopening of China’s movie theaters, but the report was careful to describe those surveyed as pre-existing “movie lovers,” given that the questionnaire went out to past users of Maoyan’s service. Still, the uptick in moviegoing enthusiasm among respondents should come as welcome news to the hard-hit Chinese film industry.

About 62 percent of respondents said they were paying attention or close attention to news on the reopening of cinemas in China, while 26 percent said they were neutral on the topic, 9 percent said they weren’t paying attention at all and 3 percent said they didn’t care at all.

When asked to identify key factors that would go into their decision about returning to cinemas, 59 percent mentioned strict health precautions (such as checking customers’ temperatures), 58 percent said also touched on ticket price discounts and 40 percent mentioned the quality of the movies that are released. About 18 percent simply said they would wait to see how others react once cinemas reopen.

Maoyan’s survey, which was based on over 1,500 responses, also touched on users recent online viewing habits and their overall economic situations. Respondents reported watching an average of six movies online over streaming platforms in March — one more than respondents to Maoyan’s February survey. About 73 percent of people said they had experience paying for movies online.

When asked about their expected earnings in 2020 in light of the coronavirus epidemic, 33 percent said they anticipated a “significant decline” in their income and 32 percent said they would be hit with a “slight decline.” As for other areas of offline consumer life, 61 percent of respondents said their brick and mortar shopping habits had resumed to at least 70 percent of their normal pre-pandemic level. But just 47 percent said they were dining out at 70 percent of the rate that they had prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

After exploding in the country in late January and early February, China’s coronavirus infections are thought to have peaked in mid-February. Travel restrictions in Wuhan, where the epidemic began, have been lifted, and new community transmissions of the virus currently are rare. Officials reported 169 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday — the largest uptick in weeks — but most of the cases were said to be imported from Chinese citizens returning from overseas.

China is the world’s second-largest theatrical film market. The country experimented with a slight reopening of movie theaters in late March — hitting approximately 5 percent capacity — but the all theaters were soon urged to shut down again amid concerns in Beijing over the possibility of a second outbreak. Regulators have offered no official guidance on when theatrical moviegoing might again allowed. Movie theaters throughout North America and the bulk of Europe remain shuttered as well.

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