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Amidst the dire news that California will be re-entering lockdown, shuttering cinemas across the state once again, there is a more positive picture when we zoom out to a global viewpoint. Three months ago, when just 1% of global cinemas were open, Gower Street said then that things could only get better; there is no doubt the situation has improved (18% of global cinemas now open) but some regions have seen more advancement than others.
The Asia Pacific region, excluding China, has been leading the charge and has seen a far higher proportion of tracked cinemas back open again than any other region. Of the 1207 cinemas tracked by Comscore across the Asia Pacific region (excluding China), 931 of those reported box-office in the week commencing July 6 (Mon-Sun). This is an increase of 1% on the week prior and a huge 695% increase from the final week of April, when just 117 cinemas were reporting. This has been possible due to successful management of the virus across large parts of S.E. Asia; Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea are among the lowest COVID-19 cases per capita. This has created more possibilities to open cinemas responsibly.
During the last week there has been some changes across the region. Singapore, where all cinemas have been closed since their original lockdown on March 26, re-opened its doors on July 13 with a maximum of 50 guests per auditorium. In the opposite direction Hong Kong has closed cinemas once again amidst a third wave of the virus. The populous Asian territory had roughly 60 cinemas reporting prior to this.
There are also encouraging signs that cinema is returning to the Europe, Middle East, Africa region. Over a third of the 8,477 Comscore tracked cinemas in EMEA reported box office in the week commencing July 6. This is a steady increase (5.7%) on the week prior and another giant leap (3338%) from the final week of April. The two territories with the largest number of cinemas, Russia and France, have epitomised the differing circumstances across the EMEA region.
In France the virus peaked around March and is now down to less than 1000 new cases per day, as opposed to over 7.5k on their worst day (March 31). Lead by strong local product and a nationwide effort to reopen cinemas synchronously the number of reporting theatres in France is nearing the pre-virus levels. In Russia, the peak didn’t occur until early May, the latest of the major European markets. The number of new cases recorded daily is dropping, but not at the rate seen in other EMEA markets – suggesting a longer tail. This has meant almost all cinemas have remained closed since early April. However, from July 15 the majority will be allowed to reopen again. The test here will be whether cinemas take the opportunity and whether they can then stay open.
Another thing hampering cinema reopening in EMEA is the lack of new product being released. With the delayed release of TENET came announcements in UK & Ireland (the largest EMEA territory by box office revenue) that many planned re-openings would be delayed. While plenty of territories can rely on strong local product, particularly in Asia, the lack of new product from Hollywood has caused a ripple effect and proved a stumbling block for re-openings globally.
The situation looks bleaker as we cast our eyes to The Americas. In Latin and Central America, just 181 (7%) cinemas in the region were reporting week commencing July 6. This is a result of escalating cases of COVID-19 across the region. Between Brazil, Mexico, and Peru none are showing any encouraging signs of the virus slowing down.
The situation is better, but far from inspiring, in Domestic. Just under a quarter of the tracked cinemas in Domestic reported in the past week (1246 of 5480) and as cases of COVID-19 in the US continue to rise that number is likely to worsen. This is a however a marked improvement on the final week of April in which just 87 cinemas were reporting. Many of the cinemas currently open are drive-in theatres. By-and-large drive-ins have been a constant over the crisis – remaining the only place to watch out-of-home entertainment in many states across the US and Canada.
Whilst China was the first country to feel the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and active cases in the country have been below 1000 since April 22, legislators are remaining cautious. All cinemas are currently closed in China and whilst there have been a small number of re-openings in March, these have been curtailed and since June not a single cinema in China has reported box office. There is a view that China were prioritising manufacturing and trade over risky cinemas. However, this week China Film Administration announced theatres in “low risk” areas will be allowed to resume business on July 20.
When piecing together the global picture, it’s clear to see that there is definite improvement on the situation we were in 3 months ago. Things did get better, but it remains to be seen how much farther we can go. All eyes are on Domestic, not only as a region with a big share of the worldwide cinemas but also as the gatekeeper of blockbuster releases. How much more can the 2020 global outlook improve whilst the US is still grappling with the virus?