As the entire industry has seen these past few months, a lot can happen in a short space of time. [In the week to Aug. 3] China’s re-opening brought a massive boost to the global footprint of open theaters; Spain once again showed the potential audience awaiting a major release; and Warner Bros brought good news for global exhibitors by announcing its new plans for TENET.

By Saturday July 25, the global market share of movie theaters open had crossed 40%. This was up from less than 30% just a week earlier (see graph below) thanks almost entirely to the successful return of China. Two weeks on and the market share of movie theaters open in China had already hit 80% (the Stage 1 goal on our Blueprint To Recovery) by August 8. This took the global market share of movie theaters open past the 50% mark (to 51%).

The latest boost is not solely thanks to China. The EMEA region has seen market share of open theaters rise from 50% on July 25 to 63%. This, in turn, boosted the International market (excluding China) to 60% open by market share (from 55% 3 weeks earlier) despite a small drop seen in South East Asia. A number of territories factored into this. In UK/Ireland, Cineworld re-opened its first cinemas for the July 31 weekend and Vue followed a week later; in Russia, Moscow’s Aug. 1 re-opening caused more of the market to open up; while in Spain, preparations for the opening of Santiago Segura’s FATHER THERE IS ONLY ONE 2 also took that market over 80% market share for the first time.

A few weeks ago, Gower Street looked at the number of movie theater sites open around the world. Those figures showed that 18% of actual premises were open globally. That 18% of global sites open represented 26% of normal market share, based on historic data from our partners at Comscore Movies. But China was not yet in the mix. We posited that with China re-opening opportunity was knocking for distributors willing to launch Internationally ahead of Domestic.

The Chinese market was finally allowed to re-open July 20, but the real boost came over the first weekend which brought the first new major releases. Universal’s DOLITTLE and Sony’s BLOODSHOT grossed $5.3 million and $2.9 million, respectively, in their opening weekends and accounted for more than 60% of market share. On Saturday, July 25 China achieved the Stage 2 target of Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery. Sunday did even better.

Perhaps even more important was the level to which the market re-opened. By July 25, 54% of Chinese movie theaters by market share were back in business, fueling the massive week-on-week bump in global theater market share. This has continued to rise.

We have also seen audience willingness to return ably demonstrated with the massive launch for Spanish family comedy FATHER THERE IS ONLY ONE 2 at home. Sony caused a stir when it moved the Santiago Segura sequel up from an August 7 release to July 29, but the gamble paid off. FATHER THERE IS ONLY ONE 2 delivered €489k ($567k) on its first day in Spain, 79% better than the opening day of the original on August 1 last year! To put this is perspective, the film’s Wednesday opening result was on par (just 2.5% lower) than the opening day of Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR. That global blockbuster had a traditional Friday (Nov. 7, 2014) opening into a Spanish market with no restrictions. FATHER THERE IS ONLY ONE 2 opened into a market where movie theaters have capacity restrictions due to social distancing and where, as of last Saturday, 30% of the cinemas by market share were still closed.

This demonstrates the huge potential for distributors with audiences waiting, hungrily, for product. This latest, Spanish success mirrors what we have already been seeing, for both local hits and Hollywood imports, in markets around the world in our Road To Recovery reports. China, Japan, South Korea, and France, as well as many smaller markets, are among those witnessing an audience appetite to return when exciting new product is offered.

It was therefore great news for exhibitors when it was announced that TENET would land in 70 countries worldwide (including Canada) ahead of the US, for the August 28-30 weekend. That market share of global theaters open will likely continue to grow, as more markets and exhibitors prepare for their first global blockbuster in six months.

Gower Street is tracking the market share of open theaters in 30 global markets and across all US states and 12 Canadian provinces in our Road To Recovery reports each week. Don’t miss out on our free trial, which runs through August. Sign up for access here.

This article was originally published in Screendollars’ newsletter #128 (August 3, 2020)