Asian Cinema Box Office Down By 92% in First Half of Year, Thanks to COVID-19

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Asian Cinema Box Office Down By 92% in First Half of Year, Thanks to COVID-19

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been as bad for movie theaters and studios in other parts of the world as it has in the U.S., but these numbers are still eye-popping to see put on paper nonetheless. According to just-released data from S&P Global Market Intelligence and OPUSData, the entire Asia-Pacific cinema market shows a 92% dive in revenue compared to the same six months of 2019. That includes three of the world’s biggest film markets: China, Japan and South Korea, along with the likes of Australia.

The entire Asia-Pacific market drew only $603 million in revenue in the first 6 months of 2020, largely in the month of January before the pandemic had picked up steam and spread as widely. In a typical year, the Asian box office typically brings in more than $17 billion.

China was unsurprisingly hit hardest, as not a single new film premiered theatrically in the country between the end of January and the end of June. The nation’s theaters were closed and reopened on several occasions, and have begun to reopen once more at 30% capacity since July 20. The year-to-date numbers in China suggest the entire box office was down by 98%, which essentially means an entire half year of time lost. Australian cinemas likewise began reopening in July 2, but things are moving sluggishly, which also isn’t surprising.

The box office numbers weren’t down quite as much in Japan (75%) and Korea (79%), which closed their cinemas later than China. In Japan, the year’s number one grossing film so far has been Oscar-winner Parasite—the first Korean film to be #1 at the Japanese box office in 15 years, in fact. It may well go on the take the title of the year’s highest grosser, depending on how depressed the box offices remain when the theaters reopen.

Across the board, these are scary numbers, and one has to wonder if the theatrical distribution system will ever be the same in the wake of COVID-19.

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