China's Lunar New Year Holiday Gives Box Office a Major Boost

Chinese Lunar New Year - H 2015
AP Images

Chinese Lunar New Year - H 2015

While theaters were full over the holiday, the traditional Chinese New Year TV Gala saw audiences shrink on old media.

The Chinese New Year holiday was a box-office bonanza in mainland China, with revenues up 43.6 percent on the previous year on the first day of the annual holiday at $57 million.

There were eight domestic films, and on Thursday (Feb. 19), the first day of the weeklong holiday known as Spring Festival in China, admissions topped nine million, according to a report in the Beijing News newspaper.

The big winner was the historical action movie Dragon Blade, starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody, which took 32.6 percent of total income on Lunar New Year's Day and took $33 million over the holiday weekend.

The other two big movies were the fantasy adventure Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal and the Chow Yun-fat movie, The Man from Macao II.

The newspaper quoted Rao Shuguang, secretary general of the China Film Association, saying the boom over the holiday was partly due to the increased number of screens, now over 24,900.

Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Wolf Totem reportedly took just $7.5 million in its opening weekend.

The previous day, Wednesday (Feb. 18), which is normally given over to family activities like making dumplings with your family and watching the annual TV gala, was also a big day for cinema-going.

This appears to have been to the detriment of the annual gala, four-and-a-half hours of sketches, variety performances and propaganda, and one of the world's most-watched TV shows with 30 years' heritage.

Telecast audience ratings for China Central Television's Lunar New Year Gala hit an eight-year low at 690 million viewers, while the number of the show's online streaming watchers hit a new high, according to data released by the national television station.

As viewers using traditional media fell, many turned to online streaming for their New Year Gala experience.

The online video group iQiyi said that simultaneous views of the show reached a record 14 million on its platform, surpassing the previous record set during the 2014 World Cup. As of Feb. 19, the Gala had been streamed over 70 million times, with total viewership surpassing 40 million and total viewing time reaching more than 50 million hours.

During the live broadcast, viewers posted more than 100 million comments, called danmu, on iQiyi, and 91 percent of viewers were under age 30.

This year's New Year Gala featured a strong anti-corruption theme, was carefully vetted to make sure it wasn't too entertaining and, going by social media, was a pretty dull affair.

There were also complaints on social media that some of the sketches were demeaning to women, making fun of "leftover women", or women who have no husbands by the age of 29, or women who didn't do enough to look attractive for men.