Vietnamese cinemas struggle to attract audiences

By Linh Do   May 26, 2020 | 11:16 pm PT
Vietnamese cinemas struggle to attract audiences
A still from the movie "Nang 3: Loi Hua Cua Cha" (Nang 3: Father’s Promise).
Movie theaters reopened on May 9 after being shut for almost two months because of Covid-19, but patrons are not coming just yet.

Summer has always been the season of blockbusters worldwide, but the situation is different this year.

According to cinema operators, since American cinemas remain shut because of the pandemic, most summer releases have been postponed to fall or next year, causing a global paucity, including in Vietnam.

This, coupled with people’s lingering reluctance to congregate, ticket sales have been lackluster, even during weekends.

According to Box Office Vietnam, the top five earners from Friday to Sunday last week were "BabaYaga: Terror of the Dark Forest" with VND2.7 billion ($116,000) in ticket sales; "Trolls World Tour" with VND1 billion ($43,000); "Truyen Thuyet Ve Quan Tien" (The Legend of Quan Tien) with VND456 million ($20,000); "Honest Candidate" with VND404 million ($17,000); and "Nang 3: Loi Hua Cua Cha" (Nang 3: Father’s Promise) with VND380 million ($16,000).

By comparison, John R. Leonetti’s horror flick "Annabelle" alone raked in VND66 billion ($2.8 million) in just one week last June. Last summer’s biggest hit, the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide, "Avengers: Endgame", garnered VND112 billion ($4.8 million) in the first four days and over VND285 billion ($12 million) in two months.

The two Vietnamese movies, "The Legend of Quan Tien" -- which won the Silver Lotus, or second prize, for feature films at the 2019 Vietnam Film Festival -- and family drama "Nang 3" that made it into the top weekend hits saw combined revenues that were a far cry from last summer’s biggest Vietnamese hit, "Lat Mat 4: Nha Co Khach" (Face Off 4).

The horror comedy had taken in VND60 billion ($2.6 million) in ticket sales within just three days, and twice that after two months.

Director Ly Hai’s lucrative "Face Off" franchise’s fifth part, a much anticipated release during the long Reunification Day holidays this year, has been postponed to Lunar New Year holiday early next year. Vietnam's Reunification Day, April 30, is a part of a 4-day holiday, which also includes Labor Day (May 1).

The closure of cinemas during Reunification Day was a great loss for the movie industry as South Korean-owned cinema chain CGV recorded zero revenues for April.

It had reported a decrease of VND500 billion ($22 million) in revenues in March compared to the same month last year.

Vietnamese rival BHD had to spend tens of billions of dong (VND1 billion = $43,100) on maintenance despite being closed.

With new movies not being an option, cinemas are dusting off and screening old foreign and Vietnamese hits such as Vu Ngoc Phuong’s 2019 comedy "Anh Trai Yeu Quai" (Dear Devil Brother), Nguyen Quang Dung’s 2018 comedy "Thang Nam Ruc Ro" (Go-Go Sister"), Kay Nguyen and Tran Buu Loc’s 2017 fantasy "Co Ba Sai Gon" (The Tailor), and Ngo Thanh Van’s 2016 fantasy "Tam Cam: Chuyen Chua Ke" (Tam Cam: The Untold Story).

If there is no further delay, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi action flick "Tenet" could premiere in Vietnam on July 17, Patty Jenkins’s "Wonder Woman 1984" on August 14 and Dean Parisot’s sci-fi comedy "Bill and Ted Face the Music" on August 21.

Three Vietnamese movies are scheduled for release this summer: Le Huong Nam’s "Toi La Nao Ca Vang" (Forgetful Mind) about a fashion designer with Alzheimer’s on June 5; Trinh Dinh Le Minh’s "Bang Chung Vo Hinh" (The Invisible Evidence) about a blind murder witness on July 10; and Nguyen Quang Dung’s "Tiec Trang Mau" (Blood Moon Party), a remake of the Italian comedy "Perfect Strangers", on August 28.

To lure audiences back, cinemas have come up with various promotions such as reduced ticket prices at CGV and the National Cinema Center and free popcorn and drinks at Lotte and BHD.

All cinemas are required to take precautionary measures against Covid such as disinfecting, distancing, checking guests’ temperature, and mask wearing.

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