Stiff competition sends cinemas to the archives

Updated: 2013-08-03 16:06


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Rather just undercutting one another until no one makes any money, some cinemas have started screening relatively more cost-effective arthouse and classic films to appeal to a greater variety of tastes and demographics.

Mtime Cinema rolled out its "Movie Outlets" promotion to offer cheaper tickets to screenings of classic films and older movies.

The promotion has been a boon for Lu Jianguo. The 58-year-old movie lover said he rarely goes to the movies, because few new, popular titles appeal to him.

"The blockbusters are all meant for youngsters. I don't like domestic ones, which are mostly about romance, and I cannot follow the plots of foreign ones," he said, adding that classic films, such as "La Grande Vadrouille," a French comedy from 1966, and "Caravan," a Bollywood film from 1971, are among his favorites.

Wang Cheng with OSGH Cinemas said the average age of Chinese moviegoers is 21.5, 10 years younger than the international average. The figure suggests that Chinese theaters are not showing films that attract many middle-aged people and senior citizens, which is a huge missed commercial opportunity.

He said the idea to screen old movies came after last year's showings of the 3D version of "Titanic." "The plot was exactly the same as it was 14 years ago, but audiences still went wild."

Now that it's becoming more difficult to turn a profit by showing only new releases, screening classic films and films that haven't been in theaters for years might help bring in revenue, he said.

In addition to screening films from different eras, cinemas are also opening up their theaters for conferences, live sporting events and romantic proposals.

"A theater only makes several thousand yuan a day if there is not much of an audience, but we can get that revenue by renting the room out for a conference or other events for two to three hours the length of a single movie," said Liu Na with Huaxing.

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