Start spreading the news, New York City is back in play! After nearly a year of closure the all-important city returned to business, albeit with capacity restrictions, on Friday (Mar. 5). The market share of open movie theaters across the state (as measured based on 2018-2019 market share by location) jumped from 16% a week earlier to 38% this past weekend. Box office for the state also jumped from $2.6 million as of Feb. 27 to $3.5 million as of March 6.

In total, box office in New York state for the full weekend (Mar. 5-7) was reported at $1.1 million. The successful return of NYC sites ensured New York state finally achieved the Stage 2 (first box office) goal of Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery on Saturday (Mar. 6). This is measured as a box office day equivalent to the lowest grossing day recorded in the two pre-pandemic years (2018-2019). The image below is taken from the New York page of Gower Street’s latest Domestic Road To Recovery report.

NYC’s re-opening was a key factor in helping secure the third biggest Domestic weekend ($24.1m) since the pandemic began, only narrowly behind the Christmas frame ($24.2m) dominated by WONDER WOMAN 1984. This past weekend saw RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON open #1 in New York state and across the Domestic market as a whole.

New York was not alone in hitting Stage 2 this weekend. Oregon also finally achieved the mark, also on Saturday, as its market share of theaters open jumped from 22% to 35% this week. New York and Oregon’s achievement comes just a week after Maryland hit its Stage 2 target on Feb. 27. This leaves California and New Mexico as the only states yet to achieve this first, base level of daily business. Although many states first achieved Stage 2 last summer, prior to subsequent closures, we can see on the Stage 2 Donut graphs on each state-view page of our Domestic Road To Recovery report that all 48 states to have achieved Stage 2 delivered business at that level for the latest Saturday (Mar. 6) of business; as did the Domestic market as a whole.

There was also positive news in those two states yet to make the Stage 2 target. California saw its market share of open theaters more than double this week from 4% to 9%, with 24 locations re-opening for a total of 54 so far. It is still early days but there have been new re-openings in the state each of the past three weeks.

This week also saw New Mexico’s first traditional theater re-open since a Feb. 24 announcement allowed movie theaters in counties at the Green level of the state’s re-opening guidance to do so. Ten counties in the state currently sit in the Green (or better) level.

Improving situations in the Domestic market are good news globally, with studios having been reticent to release major titles, especially with New York and California so impacted. Confidence appears to be returning slowly. Although the past week brought new delays for the latest FAST & FURIOUS and MINIONS movies, FAST & FURIOUS moved back only a month and its release slot was immediately grabbed by Paramount, moving A QUIET PLACE, PART II up. Other titles have also been added to the upcoming release calendar, most recently Sony’s horror THE UNHOLY on April 2.

It wasn’t only US states claiming Stage 2 achievements this week, however, as Argentina also hit the mark. The Latin American market finally saw cinemas in Buenos Aires – the most lucrative region – allowed to re-open. That boosts the market share of open cinemas in the market to 56%, having stood at just 13% a week earlier, and ensured the Stage 2 goal was achieved on Thursday, March 4.

Elsewhere across Latin America, Mexico delivered its best weekend of 2021 so far, with market share of open theaters hitting 69% – it’s highest level since earlier December; while Ecuador scored its second best weekend result since March 2020, dominated by RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON (also the Domestic chart leader) which accounted for 51% of the Ecuador box office. Panama also finally re-opened, with 63% of cinemas open by market share for the returning weekend.

However, it was not all good news in Latin America as both Brazil and Chile saw a retraction in the market share of cinemas operating; Brazil’s a significant drop from 62% to just 21% amid rising virus cases. The toing and froing of open theaters across the region resulted in a marginal overall gain in market share week-on-week (49% this week vs 48% a week earlier).

Globally the market share of open theaters reached 60% this past weekend, up from 59% a week ago. This is the first time it has regained a 60% level since mid-December. The Domestic market hit 49% this week, up from 46%; China added another percentage point, reaching 95%; Asia Pacific (excluding China) grew to 92% (from 88%); and even EMEA saw a marginal gain (to 18%, from 17% a week earlier).

In further EMEA news, Saudi Arabia re-opened Monday (Mar. 8); while some regions of Italy will be able to begin re-opening at the end of this month. Latest guidance in Italy will enable cinemas in zones assigned White or Yellow status to re-open at 25% capacity from March 27. Currently seven of Italy’s 21 zones fall into these classifications.

As of March 6 the 2021 global box office now stands at an estimated $4.7 billion (58%) behind an average of the three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019). Total global box office for 2021 is now $3.4 billion.

China has already grossed $2.45 billion in 2021, tracking 14% ahead of an average of the three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019) and 689% ahead of the same stage in 2020.

The Domestic market accounts for $1.76 billion of the deficit and is tracking 92% behind an average of the last three pre-pandemic years (90% behind 2020) – although this has improved from a week earlier.