Why Most Movie Theaters in China’s Suburbs Are Empty

In a place like China where there are around 1.4 billion people, it’s only typical to find countless industries fighting over to get a slice of the pie. However, while e-commerce became a huge hit, the cinema industry is falling far behind.

CNBC reported that in order to gain a little bit of profit, cinema owners are renting their halls to companies and music teachers. This comes after the cinema industry in China has faced a major low.

Although China has beaten the United States with the number of movie theaters in the country – 40,971 since December of last year – it doesn’t necessarily mean that cinemas in China are full of moviegoers.

This is not be the case in China’s major cities, but if you look into poorer areas in the suburbs and provinces, you would notice cinemas showing movies with row after row of empty seats.

“We don’t have many customers — only a couple on weekdays and a few dozen during the weekends,” said Zhuolu County Digital Cinema manager Wang Xudong .

“Sometimes we rent the halls out for meetings to earn some money and then we can only break even,” Wang added.

But why is it the case? Are the ticket prices expensive? Maybe there are a couple of reasons, but one local explained, “It isn’t that the ticket is too expensive, it is that I am too poor,” Zhao, a 66-year-old farmer said. “I always stay at home and watch TV because it is free. I was a movie fan 30 years ago and as far as I can remember I could afford to watch a film almost every week and I loved to watch films featuring the lives of farmers or stories in the countryside.”

In a country as populous as China, it is disappointing – especially to those in the movie business – to find out that box office earning was just an underwhelming $6.5 billion back in 2015. This is in comparison to North America’s $11 billion in takings despite being only a third of China’s population, South China Morning Post said.

Although the statistics is a bit of a letdown, research director at EntGroup, Fu Yalong, said that China’s cinema industry is still “a market with potential for development.”

“It takes time to foster the habit among people of going to the cinema,” Yalong said.

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