As ’90s Northern Irish pop band D:Ream sang, things can only get better! This weekend reached an egregious benchmark as the percentage of global theaters open for business dropped below 1%.
Gower Street is tracking global theaters that are open daily across all markets for which by-theater reporting is available. At its peak this year, recorded on January 19, over 54,000 individual cinemas worldwide reported results. On April 5 less than 1% (0.98%) of those cinemas were still reporting.
January 19 was the Sunday of the weekend which saw global box office dominated by new release BAD BOYS FOR LIFE; awards-season title 1917 drawing massive audiences as it played its second week in key markets including the UK and US while launching in new majors including France, Germany, Australia and Mexico; DOLITTLE expanding from 4 to 47 markets; and China anticipating one of its biggest box office weeks of the year!
Just four days later everything would begin to change. On January 23 China ordered its 10,000 plus cinemas to close just ahead of the lucrative Chinese New Year week. On January 24 China saw 75% of cinemas close with most of the remainder following in the next few days.
But even with China closed approximately 80% of global cinemas remained open for the next six weeks. Then, a week into March, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the movie industry hit a new and devastating gear. Italy, which had first experimented with social-distancing measures in its cinemas, announced the closure of all theaters from March 8. Three days later on March 11 the World Health Organization declared the outbreak as a pandemic and on March 13 Europe was named the new epicenter. The mass closure of theaters across Europe followed swiftly.
By March 16 less than 50% of the theaters that had been open at the 2020 peak remained in operation. A day later this number fell below 40%, hit 30% on March 18 and slipped below 20% on March 21.
Other major markets around the world including Australia (March 23) and Mexico (March 25) would follow with their own closures. The number of global cinemas still in operation dropped below 10% to just 7.6% on March 25 after Mexico’s Cinepolis and Cinemex circuits closed (representing nearly 97% of the Mexican market share).
As the few remaining markets continued to shutter one-by-one the count dropped further, dipping below 2% (1.7%) on March 29. A week further on and not even 1% remained open. News came this week that Japan is expected to close its cinemas imminently having already seen Toho and Shochiku circuits close sites in Tokyo and the neighbouring Kanagawa prefecture. That would leave only South Korea, Taiwan and Belarus with a significant portion of the their markets still reporting.
Markets set different parameters on how long they expected to close with the most optimistic suggesting the shut down would be until at least the end of March. A week into April and no market that has gone into complete closure has yet reopened.
Gower Street is continuously tracking the situation in its Road To Recovery report for first signs of markets re-opening.