At least one cinema in China’s far west officially reopened its doors Monday after shuttering for nearly two months due to coronavirus prevention measures, it has said — but no viewers came the first day.
The Zhongying Golden Palm Cinema in Urumqi, the capital of China’s vast northwestern region of Xinjiang, attempted a soft re-open on Monday for the first time since January 26, announcing 22 scheduled screenings on its official social media account the night before.
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It chose to run a selection of four second-run Chinese titles — two patriotic films made to praise the Communist Party, “Liberation” and “My People, My Country,” crime thriller “Sheep Without a Shepherd” and animal animation “Spycies” — and four other Chinese animated titles for children, including three from the low-budget “Alibaba” franchise. Parents who are members of the cinema could bring their children and watch for free, while non-members were asked to pay a nominal fee of RMB10 ($1.40).
But by evening, no viewers had come, said a man surnamed Ding in charge of cinema operations there who told Chinese outlet Sohu Entertainment that “everyone’s awareness of virus prevention measures remains very strong.”
As of midnight Sunday, the Xinjiang region has had no new confirmed coronavirus cases for 27 consecutive days. Golden Palm planned to reopen after receiving notices that it was okay to do so from both the local government and the local propaganda bureau, it said.
“We can’t stay closed forever. We can only cooperate with the notices, and test the situation a bit, and see what feedback we get from the public,” Ding said, adding that some four or five other multiplexes in Urumqi were also in the midst of attempts to reopen.
But without a paying public, his cinema is losing much more money by running empty than it would if it remained shut. “If there are no new films, it makes no difference if we’re open or not. At the moment, we only have these few films; we have to wait and see if there will be new movies released.”
Jingoistic “My People, My Country” has been in Chinese cinemas continuously since September 30, while “Sheep Without a Shepherd” had screened from mid-December up until cinemas shut in late January.
Golden Palm is currently staffed by only three people, who take pains to disinfect the facilities before and after each screening. Moviegoers will have their temperature taken before entering, and must wear masks. They have been advised to buy tickets spaced apart.
Ding said they chose not to open up online ticketing because a sudden glut of customers wouldn’t be good, either. “We want to take things slowly. If the reaction is pretty good, we’ll slowly re-open bit by bit, and if it’s bad, we’ll stay shut.”
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