12 Jun – Attendance might have been lower compared to non-pandemic times, but Taiwanese cinemas being able to stay open during the COVID-19 outbreak has turned out to be a blessing for indie distributor GaragePlay.
For the first time ever, the seven-year-old Taiwan-based company has topped the distributors' box office chart for the year to mid-June, as reported by Variety.
"I can't pretend that we did this alone – the studios pulled back their releases - or that the numbers are great, but it is interesting to see how a wide range of Asian and independent U.S. titles can keep playing," said Wayne Chang, GaragePlay founder and CEO, who was formerly an executive at Catchplay.
Taiwan cinemas have been able to remain fully operational, even though most cinemas worldwide have been on temporary closure since earlier this year as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus, since the island handled the outbreak effectively.
However, with major titles from China and Hollywood momentarily pulled from release due to the global cinema closures, it's left to independent distributors to fill up exhibitors' slots.
Due to this, GaragePlay has managed to collect USD7.98 million (NTD236 million), placing it ahead of United International Pictures (USD7.77 million or NTD230 million), Sony (SD7.16 million or NTD212 million), Warner Bros (USD5.06 million or NTD150 million) and Disney (USD3.98 million or NTD118 million).
With no Hollywood titles to compete with, Asian movies were able to earn more at the box office. Among these are South Korean comedy "Secret Zoo" with its USD1.10 million (NTD32.5 million) collection, Vietnamese horror movie "Kumanthong" with USD360,000 (NTD10.6 million) and Japanese horror movie "Howling Village" with USD250,000 (NTD7.4 million).
There was still a 90% drop in box office receipts in March and April when most movies started getting postponed and cinema patrons also started avoiding cinemas, despite no order from the Taiwanese government for temporary shutdown.
Chang revealed that since some cinemas were selling only 50-60 tickets per day, they have instead to close down for renovation. However, the problem cinemas are facing now isn't exactly the virus anymore but the lack of major new releases.
Most of Hollywood titles are either postponed to next year or heading straight to streaming platforms, while no movies from Mainland China, which only 10 per year will be selected by lottery for screening in Taiwanese cinemas, have gone ahead for release this year.
Previously, GaragePlay was able to make USD3.92 million (NTD116 million) from its release of South Korean disaster action movie "Ashfall". It remains to be seen whether its upcoming releases for the year will be able to top that.
This 24 June, GaragePlay is releasing in 4K and IMAX formats the restored version of Japanese anime film "Akira". Following that, it will be releasing "Peninsula", the sequel to Korean zombie movie "Train to Busan", next month. Releases for the second half of 2020 include "Doraemon The Movie: Nobita's New Dinosaur", the Jessica Chastain-starring "Ava" and the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring "The Courrier".