China’s movie theaters have been struggling to survive for the past year. NetEase reported that the average annual movie viewing frequency in 2022 has dropped to less than 2 times, reaching a new low in recent years. Moreover, cinemas have suffered uncontrollable temporary closures under the “zero-COVID” policy. Commercial films are seriously insufficient, so even if the cinema is open for normal business, the audience often has no film to watch.

Some who failed to maintain business come to close their cinemas. For example, Emperor UA Cinemas terminated the operations of seven cinemas in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Foshan, and Zhuhai from November 22.

Others who are managing to scrape by think of many ways to attract customers. Many of them have adopted the “Cinema+” format.

This creative format indicates that in addition to traditional use, movie theaters now offer more services, such as lunch breaks.

Chengdu Reiner Star Cinemas released an official announcement at the end of November that they would provide lunch service from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Their poster advertises 2 packages: Package A is 12.9 yuan per person with a steam eye mask included while Package B costs 18.9 yuan with a steam eye mask and a drink (a hot drink of black tea or milk tea). Its slogan says, “Find the right place, so you can sleep well at noon.”

Another new service is World Cup viewing. The World Cup in Qatar, one of the most influential national events, is undoubtedly a precious chance to attract more customers. As the largest Chinese sponsor of the World Cup in Qatar, Wanda Cinemas has also launched a series of viewing activities. The audience only needs to pay 19.9 yuan (about $3) to watch a game. The service comes with a snack package of shrimp crackers and a coke. Wanda Cinemas in Dalian offers a booking service. With 2,000 yuan, customers can book a movie theater for 100 people to watch the game. The cinema then provides drinks, popcorn, and fried chicken nuggets.

Some other services, like marriage proposals, corporate cartering and pre-screening advertisements, talk shows, and children’s drama support have also been used to increase revenue.

However, at the moment, there are no clear signs of better performance for the movie theaters.

Thus, they are all counting on the sci-fi action blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Also known as “Avatar 2,” it will be released in mainland China on December 16. 

Soochow Securities issued a research report, pointing out that with the official release of “Avatar 2” in mainland China, the audience’s willingness to enjoy the movie is strong. This will likely lead to a good box office performance.

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