Fact Check: Image Does NOT Show Single Man In China Splitting Up Seats In Movie Theater On Valentine's Day

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Image Does NOT Show Single Man In China Splitting Up Seats In Movie Theater On Valentine's Day Misattributed

Does an image show a single man in China breaking up couples' seating arrangements in a movie theater on Valentine's Day? No, there's no evidence of that: The image actually shows the reopening of a movie theater in Beijing amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Facebook on August 16, 2023. The post featured an image of a man in what appears to be a movie theater with text that read:

Single man in China once booked every other seat in a cinema theatre to split up couples on valentine's day

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

single man in china FB post.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Aug 24 14:20:41 2023 UTC)

The image used in the post was removed from its original context. Lead Stories found that the image was featured in an article published online by IndieWire on August 7, 2020, about the reopening of movie theaters in China during the COVID-19 pandemic. A caption under the image in the article read:

A movie theater restarts in Beijing, China on July 24, 2020 AP

Lead Stories searched for the image in the AP Newsroom editorial photo collection. We found it under a series of images titled "Novel coronavirus outbreak / China" taken on July 24, 2020. The description of the image in question read:

A movie theater restarts in Beijing, China on July 24, 2020, amid continuing worries over the new coronavirus COVID-19. The number of seats is restricted with 30% of the normal number to keep the social distance. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Although the image is not related to the claim, some articles, including one published in 2014 by The Telegraph and one published in 2014 by the South China Morning Post, did report such an occurrence. The article from The Telegraph described a man known only as "UP" who bought tickets and enlisted others to buy tickets at a movie theater showing in Shanghai. All the people who were in on the scheme ensured that no two seats were available next to one another, meaning that couples could not sit directly by each other. Both of the articles mentioned above reference the Shanghai Morning Post as the original publisher of the story: however, Lead Stories could not locate the Shanghai Morning Post article making the claim.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

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