Updated: It is now just over two months since most movie theaters across the US closed down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is likely to be as long again before the first major blockbuster titles are ready to release. There has been much talk that movie studios will look for 80% of theaters to be open before committing to a major release. This benchmark is in line with the Stage 1 goal of Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery: that 80% of theaters by market share will need to re-open to truly be a marker of recovery.
But positive news is starting to come through slowly. The number of theaters re-opening is growing every week. There is a long way to go for 80% of theaters to be open by market share but, as we’ve all discovered since mid-March, two months can be a long time. And things can move quite quickly. In Hong Kong, cinemas were given the go-ahead to re-open from May 8. The market had seen all of the 61 local cinemas regularly reporting to Comscore close at the end of March. Within just two days of being allowed to re-open 59 were back in business, albeit with social distancing measures in place.
In the US, the last weekend to see most theaters still playing was March 13-15. Within two days only 2,000 theaters were open. This fell to less than 500 after another two days. Since then the number of US theaters open on any single day has fallen below 20. Now numbers are gradually rising again. The May 15-17 weekend saw approximately 270 cinemas, the highest number in eight weeks. More open each week. For the Memorial Day weekend numbers had risen to over 410.
As these numbers grow Gower Street is watching what is happening by state.
The interactive choropleth graph above shows the percentage of open cinemas by state for latest (Memorial Day) weekend. It maps progress towards the stage 1 goal.
It is immediately evident that South Dakota, Utah and Alaska are running ahead of the pack. Last week South Dakota had 29% of movie theaters reporting business. Utah showed 28%, up from 22% just a week earlier. Alaska has 19% of theaters reporting business, representing over 14% of normal market share.
Another 15 states show a double-figure percentage of individual theaters now reporting. However, with most major circuits yet to open most are yet to see those theaters that are open accounting for greater than 10% of normal box office market share.
Texas has more individual theaters open, both traditional and drive-in, than any other state. However, as of last weekend these represented less than 16% of total theaters. In California, where traditional theaters currently remain closed, the open drive-ins represented only 4% of total theater count.
Three states have yet to see any theaters reporting: Hawaii, Mississippi and New Mexico. But this too shows progress. A week earlier 10 states had yet to see any re-openings.
You can explore what is going on in your, or other states, on the interactive choropleth graph. As you hover over each state on the interactive map it will display the percentage of cinemas reporting, the number of individual cinemas reporting, and the total number in the state that normally report to Comscore.
We will also update this choropleth graph regularly so you can track changes.
For more information on what is happening by state, including progress towards the growth markers identified in Gower Streets Blueprint To Recovery, check out our Domestic Road To Recovery report, available on our Reports page.
An earlier version of this article, with data and graph focused on the May 15-17 weekend, was originally published in Screendollars’ newsletter #118 (May 25, 2020).