It's no secret that 2020 has served a truly brutal blow to the movie business, particularly on the exhibition side of things. China, the world's second-largest moviegoing market, has been hit especially hard with the country's theaters closed down since late January. It now seems that many of those theaters will be closing their doors permanently, which could have major long-term effects on the industry as a whole, not to mention the nation's economy.
According to new data published by the China Film Association, 40 percent of the country's movie theaters could permanently shut down due to the closure. Many of these businesses are facing bankruptcy. 69,800 screens spread across 12,400 venues were operating in China at the end of 2019. This report suggests 5,000 venues and nearly 28,000 screens could close down. This would serve as a potentially massive blow to theatrical distribution, as studios have come to increasingly rely on box office dollars from Chinese moviegoers in recent years.
It's expected that Chinese movie theaters will be able to open soon. There was a brief moment where a handful of theaters opened up in less-populated areas of the country, only to be closed again swiftly. If theaters open this month, the China Film Association estimates that business could be back to normal within six months. Rance Pow, head of industry research consultant Artisan Gateway, had this to say in April, which lines up with this new report.
"China suffered the permanent closure of at least 2,300 cinemas through the first two months of the... industry shutdown. This equals a loss of 12,000 screens, nearly 20 percent of China's theatrical release capacity."
The total global box office hit a record $42.5 billion in 2019. China accounted for more than $9 billion of that. At the current rate, and taking into account the proposed timeline of theater reopenings, the box office in China would fall by 66 percent to just over $3 billion in 2020. And that is on the relatively optimistic side of things. If the closure lasts until October, revenue would plummet 91 percent to just $810 million for the year. Not to mention that this is just one country. Theaters are closed all around the world and these figures surely aren't going to look much better in the U.S. or elsewhere overseas.
Studios have delayed most major 2020 releases to much later in the year, save for a few titles, such as Tenet and Mulan, that are hoping to debut in July. If theaters in China aren't open by then, that could lead studios to do some more shuffling with the current release calendar. Many big movies, such as F9, Venom 2 and more, have been pushed well into 2021 as a result of the closure. We'll be sure to keep you posted as the situation develops. This news comes to us via Variety.