Jaded Singles Play Valentine's Day Prank at Chinese Cinema

China Lion Film Distribution
Tony Leung Ka Fai and Carina Lau in "Beijing Love Story"

In Shanghai, where movie theaters have assigned seating, a dateless group of young people pre-bought every odd-numbered seat to screenings of "Beijing Love Story" to prevent couples from sitting together.

Chinese couples looking for a relaxed Valentine's Day evening at the movies will find their hopes thwarted at one cinema in Shanghai. A group of dateless singles pre-bought every odd-numbered seat for v-day premiere screenings of Beijing Love Story at a movie theater in the city's popular Xintiandi shopping complex, according to the Shanghai Morning Post.

"Want to see a movie on Valentine's Day?" reads a Weibo post from the prank's organizer, going by the initials UP. "Sorry, you'll have to sit separately. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Give us singles a chance."

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The organizer told the paper that he and his girlfriend broke up last year and that he came up with the stunt while pondering what to do on Valentine's Day alone. The mysterious UP and his friends said they are now planning to make the screenings into singles parties to help dateless young people in Shanghai find someone.

Written and directed by Chen Sicheng, who also co-stars, Beijing Love Story is a spinoff from a hugely popular Chinese TV show from 2012. With a starry cast including Tony Leung Ka Fai, Wang Xuebing, Siqin Gaowa, Carina Lau, and Tong Liya, the Beijing-set romantic drama is all but certain to be a smash hit when it opens across China on Friday. Valentine's Day has become a major movie-going night in the rapidly developing country in recent years. 

The Shanghai stunt has been widely picked up in the Chinese online press.

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A 25-year-old finance professional in Shanghai, quoted by his family name, Liu, told news site 21CN that he learned about the impromptu cinema singles party on Wechat, the hugely popular Chinese chat app.

“I am single and every year I have a boring, quiet Valentine’s Day -- I always get jealous when I see lovers going out together," said the lovelorn Liu. "I again don’t have any special plan for Valentine’s Day this year, so I want to have a look at this fun activity."