The above infographic summarises almost everything you need to know about cinema developments in China’s Tier 2 cities, in this case Harbin in north-eastern China, perhaps best known for its annual ice sculpture festival.
The chart on the left shows the opening of new multiplexes: four in 2012, five in both 2013 and 2014 and one already this year (four more expected) for a total of 22 sites and 110 screens. The middle chart shows the average price of cinema ticket, which rose to a peak of CNY Y100 (USD $16) in 2010 but declined to just CNY Y19 (USD $3.05) last year and predicted to fall to just CNY Y10 (USD $1.60) this year. The chart on the right shows year-on-year box-office growth, 31% up in the last year, placing Harbin 24th in the ranking of China’s cinema markets.
So screens are multiplying even as ticket prices plummet, with micro-channels like Cat’s Eye and Gewara subsidise the difference to keep the box office up.
As well as publishing data looking at statistical trends over the last decade, Hailongjiang (DBW) Government Network also looks at how social norms for cinema going in terms of who goes and what their motivation have changed:
Wang Lei, general manager of Harbin’s Taylor Cinemas has worked in a number of Harbin cinemas. 10 years ago he and his team did a survey of Harbin moviegoing crowd, to discover what type of people come to the theater to watch movies. They found it was mostly concentrated in the 22 to 30 year old age bracket, roughly equally divided between recently married and co-workers. Surveying the reasons they went to see the movie, the answer was relatively simple. Respondents were surprisingly consistent in their answer: “love”. Cinema was almost purely a dating site, with only a few parents bringing their children for holiday viewings, or units of some organization going to see some educational films.
Now you will find that the crowd that goes to cinemas has changed. There are two girls together going to see films, there are groups of boys; there are couples, husband and wife, and also children, and so on. Wang Lei said that the survey results show that in 2014, the cinema crowd is now 90% concentrated in the 18-35 age bracket, mainly student groups and working people. Compared to a decade ago the demographic has thus expanded. The purpose of watching movies has shifted from being a simple appointment, the the development of it as a recreational habit, to come specifically to the cinema for a film. LINK
Yang Network looks at how the sale of cinema tickets through mobile commerce third party vendors has exploded in the last couple of years – predicted to account for over 60% of ticket sales in 2015. The reporter also interviews a manager from Yonghua Kunming International Cinemas about its implications. The manager seems relaxed, saying that cinema and mobile ticketing platforms “will find their own balance” over time.
Since last year, buying movie tickets online sprung up and quickly occupied the online shopping market. Original fifty or sixty yuanfor a movie ticket on Time Network, Cat’s Eye, Net Ticket, Micro-channel, Public Comment, Taobao, Baidu and other electronic business platform, the lowest price is now just 9.9 yuan. If you do not watch movies through online booking, I am afraid your friends will say that you are OUT. Why are online tickets so cheap? Is such fare normal? Recently, the Evening News reporter interviewed insiders at the Kunming Theater. LINK
Now banks are also getting in on the action, with the likes of China Everbright Bank, ICBC, Agricultural Bank of China and CITIC Bank all offering credit card deals for cinema tickets at “cabbage price” (which is the Chinese equivalent of “cheap as chips” in UK or “dirt cheap” in US). Yet insiders are warning about the consequences, with operators like Cat’s Eye now said to be dictating the price at which they will block buy seats from cinemas, with “no room to negotiate.”
“A cinema professional named Wang told reporters that theaters understand online ticketing is a double-edged sword. E-commerce platforms offer generous “subsidies”, but theaters are slowly starting to lose the initiative and are “handing over” their ticketing business.” LINK
With mobile platform ticket sales already accounting for over 50% of tickets sold in some markets, some of these operators are now also negotiating with cinemas to sell popcorn and soda on their platforms.