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Movies to Premiere Online as Coronavirus Forces 70,000 Theaters to Close in China

'Lost in Russia' film poster

'Lost in Russia' film poster

China has stepped efforts to contain the coronavirus and public gatherings are being discouraged across the country. Now, reports say that all 70,000 theaters in China have been temporarily shut.

Chinese movie fans can catch the premier of much-anticipated new comedy this holiday weekend under a 630 million yuan (USD 91.25 million) deal to issue the film over the internet, as fears of a deadly new virus keep audiences away from cinemas. The Hong Kong-listed Huanxi Media Group (1003.HK) announced on Friday an agreement with Beijing Bytedance Network to show its new movie “Lost in Russia” on Bytedance’s online platforms.

A report in also states that 70,000 theaters in China have been closed down in efforts to curtail the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The country's leading cinema chains — including Wanda, CGV, Bona, Lumiere Pavilions, Jinyi, Dadi and others — publicly announced that they would be temporarily shutting down in response to the coronavirus epidemic that has infected hundreds and gripped the nation, reported the website.

Meanwhile, Bytedance, which owns the popular TikTok video-sharing app and the news app Jinri Toutiao, said given the efforts to reduce the risks of big gatherings, it had secured the deal to let fans watch “Lost in Russia” for free on its apps.

“The film will keep the appointment to meet everyone on Jan. 25, but the meeting point has changed to your cellphone and television, instead of the cinema,” the company said in a statement posted on Jinri Toutiao.

Huanxi Media’s share price rose as much as 30% after the agreement was announced.

Neither ByteDance nor Huanxi responded to requests for comment on their agreement.

China has stepped efforts to contain the coronavirus, which has killed 25 people and infected more than 800, with public transport suspended in 10 cities and public gatherings discouraged across the country.

The week-long Lunar New Year holiday usually sees audiences flock to cinemas with distributors taking advantage of the crowds to launch films but the premieres of at least seven movies, including “Lost in Russia”, postponed.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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