China spent most of March attempting to normalize its economy after several months of virus-related shutdowns. There were reports of retail stores opening, people going outside, virus cases declining, factories restarting, and even movie theaters reopening.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that the government gave nearly 600 movie theaters across China the green light for phased reopening in the third week of March. Then by March 27, Beijing's Film Bureau requested that all theaters go into lockdown.
"This second closure will not be a one or two-week issue," an executive at a major exhibition company told The Hollywood Reporter. "They are going to be even more cautious when they attempt to reopen again—and this will set us back a long time."
The Chinese government did not explicitly cite the reason for the latest theater closings. Still, scientists are now warning that a second coronavirus wave could be arriving by the end of April:
"It's time to relax the lockdown, but we need to be alert for a potential second wave of infections," says Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Cowling warned that a second wave of the fast-spreading virus could hit China by the end of April.
Many Chinese theaters were closed on the weekend of the Chinese New Year, which is the most significant moviegoing time of the year. Box office sales in the country for the first two months were down $2 billion over the same period last year.
How China deals with the second round of the virus outbreak remains to be seen. If China delays normalcy and extends the quarantines of its citizens, it could damage movie theater chains, Hollywood studios, and the entire global film industry. This also comes as Europe and the US have shut down movie theaters, further amplifying the stress for the industry.
Major movie productions across the world have put filming on hold through spring. Warner Bros. delayed Wonder Woman 1984 from its June debut to mid-August, which suggests US theaters will be dormant through the summer months.