As some countries have begun making their way back to a sense of normality and the return to cinema, Gower Street assesses which countries and regions have the best conditions to thrive in this brave new world.

A crucial factor in the return to cinema will be the new circumstances facing exhibitors worldwide. Social distancing has been a focal part of re-opening legislation. That is no different for the movie-going experience. Many countries have already implemented restricted screen capacities to 50% or less. Dependent on the existing infrastructure, these restrictions could cause considerable disruption in parts of the world where the capacity is already stretched.

In the interactive graphic below we map out which countries have more of a chance of thriving under social distancing measures. Each country is represented by a bubble. The size is relative to the number of indoor cinemas; the colour to the continent. Hover over any bubble to find which territory it is and more information. To take a closer look at specific regions you can deselect other continents by clicking on their name in the legend on the right-hand side.


† China 9+ Screens and based on newly built cinemas 2019
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), http://data.uis.unesco.org/?ReportId=5542, Data extracted on 09 Jun 2020

Developing regions have a lower number of screens per capita

Median screens per capita is 4.69. The countries to the right (above 4.69) are almost exclusively western markets with well established cinema infrastructure. Whereas, those to the left of the median are all of South America and Africa and large parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. With social distancing measures in place, already under-screened countries may be disproportionately affected. The very low median screen per capita in Africa (0.2) and South America (2.2) could prove troublesome once these cinemas are then restricted in capacity. Whereas in the Oceanic region (10.0) a reduction in screen capacity will be less negatively felt due to the greater access to cinema.

Bigger is better in North America

The percentage of multiplexes in a region is a key indicator; the larger the cinema the more likely they will be able to effectively enact social distancing rules. In this measure North American cinemas lead the world. According to the data, 34.8% of cinemas across the region are multiplex cinemas (8+ screens). In the next highest region, Asia, it’s just 21.7%. This may indicate an ability to successfully filter patrons and ensure that social distancing measures are being met. European countries, whilst they tend to have a higher number of screens per capita, show a tendency to be small/medium sized cinemas. Spain has the highest proportion of multiplexes in Europe at only 30.7%, whilst the average across the region is just 10%.

There is no ‘perfect’ country

Notably, there are no countries in the top right quadrant of the grid. This is the intercept of high proportion of multiplexes and high screens per capita. This suggests that whilst some countries are well placed to thrive despite restrictions (Ireland) and others will be able to enforce social distancing rules with more ease (South Korea) there is no country with the perfect combination of both.

As we enter the recovery phase over the next few months, as shown in the graphic above, there are countries and regions that are better equipped to deal with these new and unprecedented scenarios. The success of this period will ultimately rely on the creativity of exhibitors in all regions, building an environment where movie-goers feel safe and happy in spite of external pressures. Ensuring access to the movies people want to see, regardless of capacity restrictions, will be key to recovery.