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Nearly Half The World’s Movie Theaters Are Back in Operation, New Data Finds

August 10, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson

Despite renewed concerns over a summer resurgence of the coronavirus, nearly half of the world’s movie theaters are back in operation, according to new data from the United Kingdom’s Gower Street Analytics.

Gower Street, a film tech company that provides analytics services to film distributors and exhibitors, reported last week that movie theaters representing roughly 48% of global box office were open the previous weekend, up from 41 percent a week earlier.

The new numbers also showed the impact of Chinese theaters reopening. Before they came back online in mid-July, only about 28% of the world’s movie theaters had reopened for the summer after a near total shutdown at the height of the pandemic.

While the report is good news for exhibitors, revenues are still down considerably due to movie companies reshuffling their release dates — postponing the release of what were anticipated to be the summer’s blockbusters — and theaters operating with physical distancing and other capacity restraints.

Gower Street uses historical box office data from individual theaters to calculate each territory’s box office availability, then compares those figures to data from Comscore, a company that specializes in measuring audience sizes and engagement across a variety of platforms.

It estimates that China, ordinarily the world’s second largest box office market, suffered a massive loss of $4.8 billion in revenue this year and that its year-to-date box office is down 94%.

Here in the United States, a number of theaters that had reopened were once again closed due to a jump in cases of the coronavirus in several states. This was particularly true in California, which closed all manner of indoor venues to try to beat back the resurgent virus.

Gower Street estimated that North American grosses, which also include the Canadian market, are $4.7 billion below their three-year average.

The business that currently remains is largely driven by drive-ins, which is estimated to account for about 64% of North American box office.

Elsewhere, the UK global market share has increased to 47%, with 36% of actual theater locations reporting being opened for business again. The UK film exhibition industry saw a boost in cinema reopenings as one of its biggest theater chains, Cineworld, reopened its doors this past late July. 

Looking toward the future of the global film exhibition industry, Rob Mitchell, the director of Theatrical Insights at Gower Street Analytics, told The Well News that until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is mass produced, limited capacities at movie theaters will likely remain in place. 

Mitchell also predicts that limited capacities will impact big theatrical releases as well. 

“This [limited capacity], in turn, will limit space for competition – with big titles likely to use a greater amount of screens for a longer period of time in order to accommodate a greater audience.” 

Mitchell continued in his assessment by telling The Well News that the industry will be making a slow and steady comeback for the remainder of the year into the first quarter of next year. 

“Only once the sector is fully able to return to full capacity and there is a steady pipeline of new products coming through will it be possible to assess any longer-term impact on the numbers of audience returning and whether those are getting back to normal pre-crisis levels,” he concluded.

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