China’s economy may be struggling, the number of young women who visited local cinemas in recent months has set records.
According to data from Dengta and Maoyan, China’s two most important box office tracking apps, box office receipts between June and September totaled 23.44 billion yuan ($3.2 billion), the biggest sum for that time period in history.
A scorching summer was largely responsible for the boom. The usual summer peak of 17.8 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in 2019 was shattered by the record-breaking 20.6 yuan ($2.8 billion) ticket sales for the traditional high season between June and August.
More than 570 million people flocked to cinemas in the past four months, and most of them were women.
For the top five movies, 61% of the viewers were women, the highest percentage on record, according to Dengta, which is backed by Alibaba (BABA). About half of the viewers were between 20 and 29 years old
COVID and The Box Office
The box office record is a rare sign of optimism in China’s economy, which has slowed down after initially picking up steam as consumers recovered from three years of harsh Covid-19 controls.
Since they provide escape for a relatively low cost, movies historically have prospered when times are hard economically, researchers said.
“Consumption is way down [in China] for things like housing or cars,” said Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science and international relations at USC’s US-China Institute.
“But they can afford to go to the movies. And that takes your mind off some of the depression,” he said.
Only 0.8% more money was spent domestically in China in the second quarter than in the first. Chinese households keep 80% of their money in real estate, making it crucial, but the market has continued to decline. And in the face of growing future uncertainty, individuals are stockpiling cash.
Rosen compared the situation in China to that in the United States during the 1930s Great Depression, when the Americans too “had no money,” but box office receipts were astronomical for movies starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.