Chinese Exhibitors Withdraw From CinemaCon Due to Coronavirus Spread

Chinese Movie Theater - Getty - H 2017
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Travel restrictions related to the ongoing outbreak were cited as their reason for canceling.

CinemaCon, the annual gathering of global film exhibitors in Las Vegas, is forging ahead as planned despite rising global alarm over the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

All Chinese attendees have withdrawn from the event, however. The Chinese delegation, whose home market represents the world's second-biggest theatrical box office, cited travel restrictions stemming from the health crisis as their reason for canceling.

With outbreaks of COVID-19 erupting in Italy and South Korea this week, concern has been growing that other important filmgoing markets may soon follow China's lead. But CinemaCon's management said Wednesday in a statement that 99 percent of the trade show remains sold out at present, and "the rest of [the event's] programming is right on par." 

"We are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and want to confirm for you that CinemaCon 2020 will be held as planned and will be a great show," the statement said. "We also want to let you know that the safety and productivity of our attendees remains our highest priority."

Organizers added that they have been in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health officials and are following their guidance.  

CinemaCon gathers the global exhibition industry each year in Las Vegas for splashy presentations from the Hollywood majors, featuring exclusive footage and guest appearances from stars to promote the year's forthcoming tentpoles. A sprawling trade-show component showcases the latest in exhibition technology, seating and refreshments. This year's CinemaCon is scheduled to run March 30-April 2. 

CinemaCon is one of many international entertainment events contending with how to respond to COVID-19's spread. Hong Kong Filmart, Asia's largest film and television content market, already has scrapped its upcoming March edition. Italy's Far East Film Festival is expected to make a statement Thursday about whether it will go on as planned in April. SXSW, set for mid-March, is bracing for international cancellations but so far plans to proceed unless the CDC advises otherwise. 

By far the biggest event on the line is the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, set to begin July 24. The International Olympic Committee has a two- or three-month window to decide whether to cancel or postpone the games, a committee member told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in China, where the outbreak originated, film industry losses have climbed to enormous proportions. Nearly all of the nation's cinemas have been shuttered since late January, resulting in over $2 billion in lost box office revenue. Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland also have sat idle for weeks, pushing operational losses to at least $200 million.