The rapid spread of the Wuhan coronavirus has led the Chinese government to quarantine several cities in the Hubei province, including its capital city Wuhan, where the outbreak began. Millions of people are prohibited to leave and enter the quarantined cities, putting huge stressors on the Chinese economy. The Lunar New Year holidays are the most popular time for travelers.
As a result, seven of China’s biggest Lunar New Year films were pulled from theaters. Of the seven included Xu Zheng’s (徐峥) Lost in Russia <囧妈>, which took 300 million yuan to produce.
On Lunar New Year day, Xu Zheng—who directed and stars in the film—announced on Weibo that he has made the film available for free via streaming, an unprecedented move in the Chinese film industry. Xu said the move was his way of saying thanks to the public while they are overcoming the deadly coronavirus.
He also thanked his cast and crew, saying, “I do feel a bit apologetic to them. A lot of their jobs were to make sure that the film was made to be experienced in the big screen. They sacrificed many days and nights to achieve that.”
Xu Zheng also expressed his gratitude to the front-line medical personnel who are battling the virus. “They are true national heroes! Like I’ve said before, anything we do is to service the viewers. In this new day, I hope I’ve achieved that!”
Netizens applauded Xu Zheng’s move, but many expressed their concern about the film losing money. Fortunately, as the film was unexpectedly pulled from theaters last minute, it broke the “guarantee agreement” signed between promoters and producers, thus the film is not pressured to earn back its budget. According to sources, Xu Zheng, his actors, the writers, and the producers have all received their pay of 87 million yuan.
Many cinema chains, however, were unhappy with Xu Zheng’s decision. On Lunar New Year’s day, the 20,000 members of the Zhejiang film industry released a joint statement arguing that Xu Zheng’s move will negatively impact the movie theater industry, as these cinemas will have no means to earn a profit without any tickets. The film industry personnel from Shanghai, Nanjing, Xuzhou, Suzhou, and Wuxi have also released similar statements, expressing that Lost in Russia’s online streaming premiere will “destroy the industry’s basic structure”.
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.