SINGAPORE: The releases of four Chinese movies have been delayed in Singapore after they were pulled from theatres in China due to concerns about the spread of the Wuhan virus, which has killed 17 people and infected hundreds.
The films are four of seven major films set to be released in China over the Chinese New Year weekend, with critics expecting them to earn more than US$1 billion in the box office in a few days.
All seven releases have now been delayed. This means the movies, produced in China, will not be shown worldwide this weekend as they cannot premiere overseas.
Notices issued by Chinese film producers and distributors on Thursday (Jan 23) said that they made this decision to prevent the possible spread of the new coronavirus at movie theatres.
Cinema operators in Singapore told CNA that the theatrical releases for the movies have been rescheduled in China and territories worldwide.
"As such, the Singapore releases will also be delayed till further notice," said a Golden Village spokesperson.
Four produced-in-China movies were set to be released in Singapore: Jackie Chan's Vanguard, animated feature Jiang Zi Ya: Legend Of Deification, action movie The Rescue and comedy Detective Chinatown 3.
They have now been delayed until further notice.
GV, Cathay Cineplexes and Shaw Theatres all said that customers will be refunded.
"We are currently in the process of notifying affected customers and will be reversing charges for advance tickets purchased," said a Shaw spokesman.
Cathay Cineplexes posted on its Facebook page that they will be delaying the release of the four films and offered refunds to customers who had bought tickets in advance.
MM2 Entertainment, which is distributing Vanguard and Detective Chinatown 3, said they were informed on Thursday that Chinese producers decided to delay the release of the movies due to the virus outbreak.
The two movies were slated for screenings on Saturday, the first day of Chinese New Year.
MM2 will be bringing forward the release of Malaysian film A Moment of Happiness from Jan 30 to Saturday, said marketing executive Timothy Law.
Encore Films, the distributor for Jiang Zi Ya: Legend of Deification, said the animated film was slated to screen at five cinema chains across Singapore. It will bring forward the screening of two other films, including Korean feature Secret Zoo.
Screenings in Malaysia and Brunei are also affected as "no country can release before China", said a spokeswoman from Encore.
GV and Shaw said other Chinese movies that will be shown during Chinese New Year include Hong Kong production Enter The Fat Dragon, starring Donnie Yen, and Raymond Wong's comedy All's Well End's Well 2020. Shaw will also be increasing the number of sessions for Ip Man 4.
MASSIVE BLOW FOR CHINESE FILM INDUSTRY
The three other movies that had their releases postponed in China are Lost in Russia, Leap and Boonie Bears: The Wild Life.
The move is a massive blow for the Chinese film industry.
It is understood that the decision to cancel the new film releases was taken by the film industry – investors and distributors behind the movies – rather than by a government department such as the National Film Administration or the health department.
Even before the release cancellation decision, some cinema chains had already begun offering refunds to patrons who wanted to cancel their ticket purchases.
The public transport authority in Wuhan announced on Wednesday that all buses and trains in the city, which has a population approaching 10 million, would shut down from 10am local time on Thursday.
Hours later, authorities in neighbouring Huanggang announced that public transport and train services would be suspended at midnight. All of Huanggang's cinemas, internet cafes, and its central market will close.
Chinese authorities have confirmed more than 500 cases of the virus, with 17 deaths in the country.
The first case of the new virus was confirmed on December 31, and it has since been detected in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
The 17 people who died in China were aged between 48 and 89, and had pre-existing health conditions, Chinese health authorities said on Thursday.