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Maoyan Entertainment (Hong Kong: 1896), China’s movie market for the first half of 2020


Maoyan Entertainment (“Maoyan” or “the Company”) (Hong Kong: 1896), a leading platform providing innovative Internet-empowered entertainment services in China, has teamed up with online entertainment service provider iQIYI and China’s leading social media platform Weibo to jointly release a report on China’s movie market for the first half of 2020.

The report draws from various indicators, including surveys of Chinese movie lovers, Maoyan market data, Weibo search statistics, and iQIYI streaming data. It presents a detailed analysis of movie lovers’ expectations for the reopening of cinemas, explains how they are adapting to changes in China’s movie industry, and describes the ways in which online streaming platforms are adapting to market trends resulting from COVID-19.


  • The willingness of movie lovers to return to cinemas, when they reopen, is on the rise.
  • New releases, ticket discounts, and theaters implementing COVID-19 safety measures will be key factors for movie lovers to return to cinemas.
  • Streaming movies online has become a new normal: over 60% of movie lovers are willing to pay to watch movies online.
  • Online streaming platforms experienced an enormous surge from January to March as people were confined to their homes. In response, streaming platforms expanded their movie databases to meet user demand for blockbusters.
  • With the boom in online entertainment, the technology behind online movie distribution and promotion has accelerated.
  • In the long run, online streaming and theatrical releases will coexist and work in synergy.

Movie lovers’ willingness to return to cinemas

Movie lovers’ willingness to return to cinemas has been on a continual rise. In a survey conducted at the end of May by Maoyan, around 88% of respondents said they were eager to return to cinemas, up from 72% of respondents in March and 54% in February.

Willingness to go to cinemasPercentage of total respondents
Much more eager to go to cinemas27%34%55%
Eager to go to cinemas27%38%33%
Not that eager to go to cinemas10%7%1%
No intention at all3%3%N/A

According to the May survey, about 51% of respondents would prefer to watch new releases in IMAX and Dolby theaters after cinemas reopen.

Movies and theater preference after cinema reopeningPercentage of total respondents
New releases in IMAX and Dolby theaters51%
New releases in regular theaters31%
Classic movies in IMAX and Dolby theaters with discount tickets14%
Classic movies in regular theaters with discount tickets3%

As to what types of movies they would choose to watch, comedy, sci-fi, action and suspense movies were among the most-anticipated movie genres after cinemas reopen.

Most anticipated movie genres to watch after cinemas reopenPercentage of total respondents

As of July 9, 2020, the most anticipated upcoming movies were “Detective Chinatown 3,” “JIANG ZIYA: Legend of Deification” and “The Rescue” among movie lovers on the Maoyan Pro App.

Top 10 “Maoyan Interested” upcoming movies“Interested” clicks
Detective Chinatown 32.3M
JIANG ZIYA: Legend of Deification930K
The Rescue453K
Journey to the West352K
L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties 2327K
The Eight Hundred270K
Boonie Bears: The Wild Life184K

In addition to new releases and discounted tickets, the implementation of COVID-19 safety measures in movie theaters is another factor for movie lovers to consider returning to cinemas. In Maoyan’s March survey, nearly 60% of respondents said that strict theater precautionary measures would be their primary factor in considering returning to cinemas.

Factors to consider for returning to cinemas Percentage of total respondents
Strict precautionary measures (temperature checks and real name
Ticket discounts58%
Quality of new movies released40%
Limited seating24%
Movie schedule21%
Waiting to see how other people react18%
Auditorium size16%

Watching movies online is becoming a new normal: over 60% of movie lovers are willing to pay to watch movies online

According to the Maoyan March survey, 73% of respondents said they have paid to watch movies online. When asked to rate the acceptability of being charged to watch online, more than 60% of respondents said that it is acceptable to them.

Paid to watch movies onlinePercentage of total respondents
Not sure/Don’t remember5%
Acceptability of paying for online moviesPercentage of total respondents
Completely acceptable21%
Moderately acceptable43%
Not very acceptable25%
Not at all acceptable6%
Doesn’t matter to me6%

As movie lovers have shifted to streaming online, their go-to sources for movie news and information have shifted as well. Weibo and long-form video platforms (iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku) became the main sources for movie news, followed by WeChat Moments, friend recommendations, and short-form video platforms (TikTok and Kuaishou). 

Sources for movie news and relevant informationPercentage of total respondents
Long-form video platforms (iQIYI, Tencent Video, and Youku)73%
WeChat Moments and friend recommendations40%
Short-form video platforms (TikTok and Kuaishou)40%
Movie and TV rating website, e.g., Douban36%
WeChat official accounts32%
Online ticketing platform, e.g., Maoyan18%
News and information platform, e.g., Toutiao7%

Theatergoers and online streamers have similar preferences for times of day to watch movies. According to iQIYI data, before bedtime 9:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m., is the peak timeslot for movie streaming. Viewing also peaks at lunchtime from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. With more interrupted watching patterns than in theaters, viewers finish watching a movie in an average of 1.6 playback sessions.

According to a survey conducted by Weibo, about 62% of respondents said that convenience is the primary advantage of watching movies online, followed by the flexibility to watch anytime, anywhere at adjusted playback speeds (59%), and thirdly by the rich selection of content (56%).

Advantages of watching movies onlinePercentage of total respondents
Flexibility to watch anytime, anywhere at adjusted playback speeds59%
Rich selection of content56%
Private space for watching movies48%
Cheaper price or free for streaming42%
Interactions with other online users35%

In terms of disadvantages compared to the in-theater experience, 68% of respondents said the main disadvantage of online streaming is the worse visual and sound quality, 58% said the worse movie-watching experience, and about 49% said the main disadvantage was having to wait for the online release of popular movies.

Disadvantages of watching movies onlinePercentage of total respondents
Worse visual and sound quality than in theaters68%
Worse movie-watching experience58%
Long wait-time before popular content is available online49%
Less social experience38%
Lower quality of content34%
Some online movies charge higher30%

After the COVID-19 pandemic when movie theaters reopen, 48% of respondents would consider watching movies both online and in theaters. About 8% of people would only choose to either watch movies online or go to movie theaters.

Preferred method of watching movies in the futurePercentage of total respondents
Only watching movies online4%
Watching movies online as the first choice10%
Both watching movies online and in movie theaters48%
Going to movie theaters as the first choice33%
Only watching movies in theater4%

Online streaming platform strategies to adapt to COVID-19 market trends

According to the report, Chinese online streaming platforms experienced an enormous surge from January to March as people were confined to their homes. In February, the monthly active users (MAU) of iQIYI, Tencent Video and Youku increased by an average of 8.3% year-over-year.

However, the MAU of these three platforms shrank in April and May as people resumed normal work following the containment of COVID-19 in China. During the same period, short-form video platforms went through an explosion in popularity.  

Increase in MAU of online streaming platforms year-over-year
iQIYITencent VideoYouku

Among online streaming platforms, iQIYI released 176 movies in the first half of 2020, accounting for 44.3% of the total market. Tencent released 86 movies, accounting for 21.7%, while Youku released 114 movies, accounting for 28.7% of the total market.

New releases in H1 2020Percentage of total market
Tencent Video8621.7%

Theatrical blockbusters were the most popular movies for streaming in the first half of 2020. According to the report, among top 20 most popular movies on iQIYI in the first half of 2020, about 40% were theatrical releases from the second half of 2019, about 30% were new online releases, while 30% were older theatrical movies released in previous years.

Top 20 movies in H1 2020 on iQIYI platformPercentage
Theatrical released movies from H2 201940%
Online new releases30%
Theatrical released movies in the past few years30%

Long-form video platforms expanded their database of movies to meet increased user demand for watching blockbusters online. The number of new movies on iQIYI platform increased by more than 200% year-over-year. Video platforms also selected several popular movies to stream for free in a certain period to attract movie lovers.

In response to the growing popularity of online streaming platforms, some movies turned from a planned theatrical releases to a direct streaming release. The Chinese comedy “Enter the Fat Dragon,” and the Academy Award-winning drama “Marriage Story,” were released on iQIYI and Tencent Video, and were available on platforms through “early-access transactional on-demand” mode.

Release DateMovieStreaming Platform
January 24Lost in RussiaTikTok, Xigua Video, Toutiao and Huanxi
February 1Enter the Fat DragoniQIYI and Tencent Video
March 21The WinnersTikTok, Xigua Video, and Toutiao
April 20KnockoutiQIYI
May 17Spring TideiQIYI
May 20Marriage StoryiQIYI and Tencent Video
May 22The LovebirdsiQIYI and Tencent Video
June 18A Whisker AwayTikTok, Xigua Video, and Toutiao
June 25AshYouku
June 27Looking for LuckyYouku

The technology behind online movie distribution and promotion has been accelerated with the boom in the online entertainment market. In terms of movie copyright protection, online movies use DRM technology to protect copyrights, restricting the right to use digital media content. The coverage of DRM-enabled content on iQIYI has increased by 90% over the past six months. In terms of visual and audio quality, upgrades in technology have enhanced the visual and sound experience of online streaming platforms. For example, iQIYI introduced Dolby Vision technology to 39 movies to improve the movie picture quality, and enhanced the audio quality of 15 movies by applying Dolby Atmos technology. In addition, an iQIYI innovation, ZoomAI video enhancement technology, has improved picture quality for online movies. 

In the long run, online streaming and theatrical releases can coexist and work in synergy. The cooperation and interaction between online and offline channels will be the new normal and support the development of movie content and technology in the film industry.

About Maoyan Entertainment

Maoyan Entertainment (Hong Kong: 1896) is a leading platform providing innovative Internet-empowered entertainment services in China. Since its inception, Maoyan has grown from an online movie ticketing service provider to an innovative one-stop platform for entertainment services. Maoyan has a comprehensive strategy to become a leading platform servicing the entire entertainment industry in China. The upgraded strategy is supported by five key platform pillars: online ticketing platform, products and services platform, data platform, marketing platform, and funding platform.

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S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D. Economist at Knightsbridge holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Crypto, Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.