It isn’t just apps. China’s cinemas broke records during Lunar New Year

China celebrated Lunar brand-new year last week as hundreds of millions of people travelled to their hometowns. While many had longed to see their separated loved ones, others dreaded the weeklong holiday as relatives awkwardly caught up with them with questions like: “Why are you not married? How much do you attain?”

Luckily, there are ways to endure the festive moment in this digital age. Smartphone usage during this period has historically surged. Short video app TikTok’s China model Douyin noticeably took off by acquiring 42 million brand-new users over the first week of last year’s holiday, a report from data analytics tight QuestMobile shows. Tencent’s mobile game blockbuster Honor of Kings similarly gained 76 percent DAUs during that moment, according to another QuestMobile report.

People also hid away by immersing themselves in the cinema during the Lunar brand-new year, a movie-going period akin to the American holiday season. This year, China wrapped up the first six days of the brand-new year with a record-breaking 5.8 billion ($860 million) yuan box office, according to data collected by Maoyan, Alibaba’s movie ticketing service slated for an initial public benefaction.

The brand-new benchmark, however, did not reflect an expanding viewership. Rather, it came from price hikes in movie tickets, marketplace research tight EntGroup suggests. On the first day of year of the Pig, tickets were sold at an average of 45 yuan ($6.65), up from 39 yuan last year. That certainly put some price-sensitive audience off — though not by a gigantic margin as there wasn’t much to do otherwise. (Shops were closed. Fireworks and firecrackers, which are traditionally set off during the brand-new year to steer evil spirits away, are also banned in most Chinese cities for safety concerns.) Cinemas across China sold 31.69 million tickets on the first day, a slight decline from last year’s 32.63 million.

Dawn of Chinese sci-fi

wandering earth 2

illustration source: The Wandering Earth via Weibo

Many Chinese companies don’t return to work until this Thursday, so the box office results are still being announced. Investment bank Nomura put the estimated total at 6.2 billion yuan. What’s also noticeable about this year’s movie-inspired holiday peak is the fervor that sci-fi The Wandering Earth whipped up.

American audiences may find in the Chinese movie components of Interstellar’s space adventures, but The Wandering Earth will likely resonate acceptable with the Chinese audience. Adapted from the novel of Hugo Award-winning Chinese author Liu Cixin, the movie tells the tale of the humankind race seeking a brand-new home as the aging sun is about to devour the earth. a team of Chinese astronauts, scientists and militaries eventually work out a plan to postpone the apocalypse — a plot deemed to have stoke Chinese viewers’ sense of pride, though the extricate also involves participation from other nations.

The movie, featuring convincing distinctive effects, is also widely heralded as the dawn of Chinese-made sci-fi films. The sensation gave rise to a wave of patriotic online reviews like “If you are Chinese, go watch The Wandering Earth” though it’s unclear whether the discourse was original or have been manipulated.

Alibaba’s movie powerhouse

This record-smashing holiday has also been a huge triumph for Alibaba, the Chinese internet attire best known for ecommerce and increasingly cloud computing. Its content production segment Alibaba Pictures has backed five of the movies screened during the holiday, one of which being the blockbuster The Wandering Earth that also counts Tencent as an investor.

Tech giants with online streaming services are on course to upend China’s movie and entertainment industry, a sector traditionally controlled by old-school production houses. In its most recent quarter, Alibaba increased its stake to take majority regulate in Alibaba Pictures, the movie production business it acquired in 2014. Tencent and Baidu have also spent huge bucks on content creation. While Tencent zooms in on video games and anime, Baidu’s Netflix-style video site iQiyi has received wide acclaim for house-produced dramas like Yanxi castle, a smash knocked
drama about backstabbing concubines that
was streamed over 15 billion times.

Seeing all the entertainment options on the table, the Chinese government made a pre-emptive move against the independent players by introducing a news app designed for propaganda purposes in the weeks leading to the holiday.

“The timing of the publishing of this app might be linked to the upcoming Chinese brand-new year Festival, which the Chinese Communist Party sees as an opportunity and a necessity to spread their ideology,” Kristin Shi-Kupfer, director of the research venue on public policy and society of German think tank MERICS, told TechCrunch earlier. “[It] may be hoping that people would use the holiday season to take a closer look, but probably also knowing that most people would rather appoint other sources to relax, consume and journey.”

The article has been updated to correct Kristin Shi-Kupfer’s title.


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