BEIJING (AP) — Beijing partially reopened movie theaters Friday as the threat from the coronavirus continues to recede in China’s capital.
Cinemas in parts of the city deemed at low risk of cross-infection began admitting moviegoers under social distancing rules. Tickets must be booked in advance, attendance is capped at 30 percent of capacity and no eating or drinking is allowed during the show.
As with most venues in China, a temperature check and online travel record were required for entry. Cinemas have been closed for around six months but began reopening this week in major cities throughout the country.
China reported just 21 new virus cases on Friday, six of them imported, with the rest in the Xinjiang region and Jilin province. Beijing has gone more than two weeks without any cases of local transmission, spurring authorities to lift many restrictions on activities.
Tickets at Poly International Cinema’s branch near Tiananmen Square were sold out Friday, with the marquee boasting the comedy Dolittle and superhero attraction Bloodshot. China’s domestic movie industry has also been generating major ticket sales while audiences have warmed to features from India and other foreign countries.
Movie poster designer Liu Jingyu managed to grab tickets for both Hollywood films shown at the Poly cinema, rekindling his hopes after seeing his earnings dry up over the past half-year.
“For us who make a living on movies and who are movie enthusiasts, without movies, our life is full of pain,” Liu said.
Chinese are enthusiastic moviegoers and the country was expected to surpass the US this year as the world’s biggest box office before the pandemic hit.
Li Xu, manager of the Poly cinema branch, said he is looking forward to the October National Day holiday when he expected the movie market would return to normal. The weeklong vacation is typically huge for ticket sales, with Chinese cinemas generating a record five billion yuan (US$708 million) from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 last year.
Image: A volunteer with the Blue Sky Rescue team performs disinfecting of a theater before it reopens for business in Beijing Friday, July 24, 2020. Theaters in China, the world’s second largest movie market, this week reopened from the coronavirus shut down with theaters limited to 30 percent capacity. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)