Mooncake movies

Mid-Autumn Festival set for a busy box office

Wang Keru-w

Wang Keru: star of To Be With You

The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, is traditionally a holiday of mooncakes (see WiC383) and lanterns. This year, films studios in China are hoping that people will choose to spend more of the three-day break, which begins on September 19, in cinemas too.

The holiday period typically comes at an awkward time for cinema bosses, falling between the screening of lucrative mid-summer blockbusters and the popular moviegoing Golden Week around the National Day holiday in early October. But this summer, with cases of the pandemic’s Delta variant breaking out in some parts of the country, some provinces closed cinemas which led some film releases to be delayed till September.

“Generally speaking, most big blockbuster films don’t choose to release around the Mid-Autumn Festival since the summer holiday and the National Day are much better choices for big-budget films. The Mid-Autumn Festival is usually reserved for smaller budget productions. That is also the case this year,” one industry commentator reported. “But compared with previous years, this year’s schedule still leaves some room before the onslaught of blockbuster films on October 1. It is an ideal time for small to medium-sized budget films to hit the market.”

To that end, 12 new films will debut during the narrow holiday window, beginning with Cloudy Mountain, a disaster movie that stars one of the hottest names in show business, Zhu Yilong. Zhu plays a railway engineer who helps to save a city from a catastrophic natural disaster.

For those looking for less intense viewing between their mooncakes, there is also the romance To Be With You, featuring starlet Wang Keru, who previously appeared in director Feng Xiaogang’s Youth. She is cast alongside heartthrob Liu Dongqin. There’s also a family drama All About My Mother, starring actress Xu Fan, telling the story of mother-daughter dynamic as the mother struggles with cancer.

“The competition for the Mid-Autumn Festival this year is especially fierce. But if box office results during the period are strong, it will definitely give the market a confidence boost for the National Day holiday,” tech portal 36Kr added.

Universal Studios is also hoping the holiday period will bring traffic to its new theme park in Beijing. The Universal Beijing Resort, which opens to the public this Saturday, has been a long time in the making. Jointly owned by the Beijing local government and Comcast NBCUniversal it took two decades of planning and seven years of construction to finish. Costing Rmb50 billion ($7.75 billion), it’s Universal’s fifth theme park and also its largest.

Within an hour of the resort officially announcing its opening date last Monday, searches on Chinese travel booking platform Ctrip for the park rose 830% compared with the previous week.

Searches for nearby hotels increased by 320% over the same period, according to the Global Times.

Some were disappointed to learn about the entry fees for the park, however. Tickets range from Rmb418 in low season up to Rmb748 during peak periods, which includes most of the summer holiday. Judging from the website, an entry pass during the Mid-Autumn Festival will cost Rmb638 ($99).

“As I’ll only have time to go on special days, such as the National Day holiday, these prices don’t work for me. It’s too expensive,” one netizen complained on Sina Weibo.

The park operator justifies the prices by saying that visitors are allowed to bring their own food and drinks into the resort, which helps to keep their costs down. (That said, parkgoers have been advised against arriving with items with a “strong smell, such as durians” or with those that carry potential fire risks such as self-heating hotpots.)

Despite some complaints about the pricing, demand still seems robust. According to Beijing Daily, soon after sales started on the official website, all entry tickets until the end of October were sold out…

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