"You go to the movie theater, and I give you a free mask to fight SARS," is the new marketing strategy of one Taiwanese film company.
The local film industry has become another business hurt by the SARS epidemic. Cinemas have become desolate places and box office receipts have dropped 50 percent in the past two weeks. As a result movie companies have to figure out new ways to release their films.
Fancy 25, a movie in three parts by three young filmmakers had been scheduled for release this weekend [tomorrow], but the aggravated epidemic has given the distributor, Ren-ren Films, (
"For a local film it's already difficult to lodge a time slot for the cinemas [where Hollywood films always have the advantage in the distribution schedules]. So we decided not to postpone the release dates. Instead we will send out our staff to give out masks to people going to this movie," said Yang Chih-ming (
But, for another local distributor, Central Motion Picture Corp (CMPC,
According to Jennifer Jao (
Taiwan's Movie Theater Association (
If a person's temperature is over
38℃, he or she will not be allowed into the cinema and will be given a ticket refund.
The association also advises its customers to wear masks while watching movies in the cinema.
But the damage is already done at Taiwan's box office. For the weekend of April 26, the best selling films were Anger Management and Bullet Proof Monk. But the former grossed less than NT$ 3 million and the latter less than NT$2 million -- which is a decrease of between 40 to 60 percent for the average
Such a movie generally grosses around NT$100 million. This time around, X-Men2 -- the best-selling film for the weekend of May 3 -- made NT$5 million, which is only half the first week gross of the first X-Men movie. One movie theater sold just eight tickets for X-Men 2 in one day. It is an unprecedented
Even more seriously hit are Chinese-language films. Zhang Yi-mou's (
The slump is worrying the distributor of Matrix-Reloaded, Warner Brothers of Taiwan, which has spent millions of NT dollars promoting the film and also has the problem of pirating recordings to consider. Warner Taiwan has decided to stick to the original plan and release the film on May 15, the same time as in the US.
But, it seems safe to say, the box office returns for Matrix-Reloaded will not be as good as last time around, at NT$100 million.