It has been a turbulent couple of months as virus cases across many US states have surged. Due to this the re-opening of movie theaters has not expanded as may have been expected, and certainly not with the same vigor as seen in many international markets. Even so, the number of open theaters continues to increase and the latest re-opening plans announced this week by AMC will bring further expansion.

Since early June, the number of theaters open and reporting to Comscore across the Domestic market has more than doubled from 562 on June 6 to 1,224 on August 8. It is undeniable that a big portion of that increase over the past two months has come from returning locations in Canada (approximately 43% of the net gain), and developments in the Canadian part of the Domestic market will form the basis of our focus next week. But the US has also seen growth in both the numbers of theaters open and market share attributable to them. This week we revisit our choropleth graph to see where the most notable changes within the US can be seen.

Theaters Open

The choropleth graph above shows the percentage of reporting movie theaters by state for last weekend (August 7-9), according to data from our partners at Comscore Movies. If you want to explore what is going on in your, or other states, an interactive version of this choropleth graph is available to view on our website (see below). 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.

Among the 50 states, the state with the highest proportion of theaters that report business to Comscore is Rhode Island. The smallest US state by land mass also has the fewest reporting theaters, half of which are now re-open. The first traditional theaters in the state re-opened July 3. These included one of the first two Showcase sites to re-open anywhere in the US.

Purely in terms of locations reporting business, those following most closely behind Rhode Island are: Idaho and Utah (both show 43% of theaters active); Delaware (42%); South Dakota (38%); Iowa (37%); Wyoming, Kentucky, Maine, and Indiana (all 35%).

Most states now have more locations open than they did back in early June but a few have seen numbers drop. Arizona re-closed indoor venues on June 30 (as well as its two permanent drive-ins the state saw Harkins Theaters launch as pop-up last weekend at its Chandler Fashion Center mall location). California re-closed indoor venues July 13 (with 19 counties already having had to re-close two weeks earlier). Both states now have just 3% of normally available theaters open – this has halved in California in comparison to July 4. Others, such as Washington and New York, have seen no gain in numbers since July 4. Massachusetts and Virginia have seen the greatest gains in numbers re-opening between July 4 and August 8. This is unsurprising in Massachusetts, where traditional theaters were allowed to re-open July 6, but more notable in Virginia, where the first traditional theaters to open did so June 12 (numbers doubled to over 20 during July).

The Other Side of the Coin

The choropleth gives us one picture, but there is another consideration – what percentage of market share do those theaters open represent? In our Road To Recovery reports, our Growth Trackers show the market share of open theaters in each market and, looking globally, there is a marked contrast between the Domestic market and international regions. As of August 8, the Domestic market saw 22.3% of physical locations back in business (as shown on the choropleth) but these accounted for only 14.8% market share of box office historically.

This is the reverse of what is seen in most international markets where the market share of those open is equal to or greater than the percentage of physical locations open. Globally, on August 8, 47% of available locations were once again reporting business to Comscore, representing 51% of market share. In China, the 71% of theaters open traditionally represent 80% of market share. In France, the 68% of theaters open represent over 96% of market share.

In these terms the top performing state is Wyoming, with those theaters open representing nearly 72% of market share, ahead of Rhode Island (57%). Utah (48%), South Dakota (39%), North Dakota (35%) and Nebraska (34%) follow, all showing theaters open punching above their weight in terms of market share. But the remaining states in the top 10 for market share currently available (Maine, Delaware, New Hampshire and Minnesota – between 26%-28.5%) all see a greater percentage of physical sites open than the market share they account for. The market share represented in California is just 1.4%; Washington’s is only 1.1% (from 6% of active theaters).

The biggest negative disparity between the two measures is seen in Idaho where 43% of available theaters are now reporting business but these represent an historic market share of only 12.5%. This is followed by Indiana which has 35% of available theaters reporting business but representing less than 11% market share.

The market share now available is improving in many states. Rhode Island’s near 57% of available market share on August 8 had more than doubled from 27% just two weeks earlier on July 25. In the same period, Nebraska jumped from 19% to nearly 34%; Vermont from 12% to 19%; Utah from under 42% to 48%. The Domestic market as a whole showed just 10.3% marker share available on July 25, rising to 14.8% by August 8. However, there was also a contraction over the same two week period in 14 states, most notably Arkansas (which saw available market share nearly halve from 30% on July 25 to 16% on Aug. 8) and Mississippi (dropping from nearly 27% to just under 20%).

Good news came Thursday, when AMC announced its theaters would begin re-opening next week (Aug. 20) with over 100 locations. Approximately two thirds of AMC theaters are expected to be re-open by September 3, when TENET will land on US shores having opening in Canada and many international markets the previous week. This should add significantly to the Domestic footprint. Gower Street continues to track developments, with latest data on open theaters and the market share they represent featured in our weekly Road To Recovery reports.

This article was originally published in Screendollars’ newsletter #130 (August 17, 2020).