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China's cinemas are shutting down during the Lunar New Year holidays as the country is gripped by the deadly coronavirus epidemic.
The news comes after seven titles collectively pulled out from their scheduled new year release on Thursday. The virus has so far led to quarantine measures in at least 10 cities in Hubei province home to some 33 million people, including the capital Wuhan, the epicenter where the virus first emerged. The number of confirmed cases across China has grown to 830 and the death toll to 26.
The Guangdong province film bureau issued an emergency notice Friday instructing all cinemas in the province to shut down during the holidays to stop crowds from gathering in enclosed environments. As of Friday, the province has reported 17 cases of coronavirus.
This was followed by announcements from individual cinema operators that they would be closing up their businesses. Wanda, Bona, Lumiere Pavilions and Emperor are among the cinema operators that have made such announcement on their official Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter.
Meanwhile, Xu Zheng's comedy "Lost in Russia" will be made available online for free from Saturday, the first day of the lunar new year.
The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China and the National Radio and Television Administration announced that copyright owners of 10 TV series have donated the rights to Hubei and Wuhan TV stations "to boost the spirit" of people remaining in cities that have been locked down. These titles include shows that sing praise for medical professionals.
China boasts more than 66,000 screens, the largest number in the world. Chinese media sources estimate that the shut down of cinemas will cost billions of RMB in the box office.
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