China announced on Tuesday that it will soon relax pandemic-related restrictions currently placed on cinemas and allow venues to sell up to 75% of their available tickets.

Chinese cinemas are currently limited to just half capacity, but can shift over to selling 75% of their available tickets from Sept. 25, the China Film Distribution & Projection Association said in new guidelines released on their official social media accounts.

The move is a boon to struggling exhibitors, who have suffered through six months of shutdowns this year and only re-opened their doors in late July. It also comes after the release of Hollywood tentpoles “Tenet” and “Mulan,” but just as major Chinese blockbusters are set to bow over the upcoming National Day holiday.

Chinese authorities are seeking to ramp up cinema-going ahead of that period, when a slew of patriotic films will hit theaters, intended to boost morale and feelings of national pride.

Notably, Peter Chan’s “Leap,” a volleyball drama starring Gong Li that was initially supposed to launch over Chinese New Year, has shifted its originally scheduled release five days earlier to stand out from the crowd, and is now set to debut on Sept. 25 — the same day the new guidelines will come into effect.

Eight other films will fight for attention in what is turning out to be an unexpectedly competitive battle. Most notably, they include two other Chinese New Year blockbusters, the hotly anticipated animation “Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification” and Jackie Chan-starrer “Vanguard,” as well as the patriotic omnibus film “My People, My Homeland” and, incongruously, the 1999 Japanese road movie “Kikujiro,” starring, written and directed by Takeshi Kitano. 

The new pandemic rules require continued vigilance from cinemas on coronavirus prevention, stating that key public areas such as lobbies, corridors and screening halls should be disinfected with spray no less than twice a day, while places like toilets, vending machines and seats in public areas should be wiped down at least five times a day.

Tickets will remain sold online-only, via reservations attached to people’s real names, and retrieved without human contact via vending machines.


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