China has shut down virtually all of its movie theaters and canceled the releases of several blockbuster movies amid the outbreak of coronavirus that has now killed 81 people in the country and sickened more than 3,000 others worldwide.
Due to the outbreak, Chinese film studios voluntarily postponed the releases of a number of tentpole films that were expected to draw huge crowds over the Lunar New Year holiday, which began Jan. 25. In an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus, and with no new films to screen anyway, China’s cinema chains decided to close more than 70,000 theaters around the country.
The Lunar New Year is one of the biggest weeks of moviegoing each year in China. Last year, the Chinese box office totaled $360 million during the first weekend of the holiday. But this year, with most of the country’s theaters shuttered and its movies postponed, the Chinese box office grossed only about $2 million over the holiday weekend, according to the ticketing platform Maoyan. It had been expected to generate as much as $1 billion globally.