Chinese film to premiere online as virus closes cinemas

Published : 11:55, Jan 24, 2020 | Updated : 12:01, Jan 24, 2020

Chinese movie fans can catch the premiere of much-anticipated new comedy this holiday weekend under a 630 million yuan ($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 announced on Friday an agreement with Beijing Bytedance Network to show its new movie "Lost in Russia" on Bytedance's online platforms.

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.