According to data from U.K.’s Gower Street Analytics, 48% of the world’s cinemas are up and running. That figure may come as a shock to those in the U.S., where most screens remain dark and the ongoing pandemic continues to ravage the nation.
The news is a welcomed relief to movie distributors and exhibitors who have been dealt blow after blow in recent weeks. In late July, Christopher Nolan’s big budget thriller “Tenet” was delayed indefinitely before being slated to open in select cities on Sept. 3. On Tuesday, Disney announced that its own tentpole flick, “Mulan,” was no longer being given a mainstream theatrical release and instead was going to be offered via streaming on Disney Plus (for a whopping $30).
The data from Gower Street shows that the 48% figure is a healthy increase from the previous weekend in which 41% of cinemas were operational. Before that, as of July 18, only 28% of movie theaters were up and running. The significant jump was mostly attributed to Chinese cinemas beginning to robustly return to activity.
It must be noted, however, that despite half the world’s cinemas being open, only a fraction of that figure represents anything close to actual capacity. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the Coronavirus, most locations are enforcing social distancing while offering limited seating, meaning that even if patrons wished to return to theaters in droves, mandated health policies and procedures would prevent them from doing so.
The number of theater locations operating in North America actually dropped for the most recent reporting period, from over 1,000 to approximately 950. The reduction is a result of the worsening pandemic conditions throughout the Sun Belt. A handful of states are reverting back to heightened quarantine conditions, including California, which re-closed indoor venues.
A majority of the North American box office is being attributed to drive-ins. Saturday’s gross receipts topped $2 million for the second consecutive weekend–an unthinkably paltry figure under normal circumstances–with Comscore estimating 64% of that amount derived from drive-ins.