Cinemas are still closed across the world. But they will reopen, and it’s hard to tell how successful they will be when that happens.

Here are five indicators to help us understand how the sector is, and will recover in the post COVID-19 landscape. I’m looking at everything from Google Trends, to audience sentiment, and stock prices. All of these graphs will update daily for the next few months.

Countries with cinemas allowed to open

Average positive audience sentiment

Average cinema stock price change since Wuhan lockdown, January 23

Average cinema search engine change since Wuhan lockdown, January 23

UK Box Office change to date, year-over-year

1. Where are cinemas open?

Here is the open status for over 115 countries. Cinemas are still mostly closed across the world, but some have stayed open throughout (Sweden, Taiwan), are beginning to reopen (Germany), or have set open dates (France, June 22nd).

Many countries aren’t represented here, I couldn’t find a source for them - let me know if you can.

View the full map

And don’t miss Gower Street’s choropleth map of the United States open status, giving a state-by-state overview.

2. Are audiences searching for cinemas?

Google Trends shows what people are searching for around the world, so it’s a useful tool to identify the rhythm of audience interest and demand.

The scores awarded by Google Trends show the popularity of a search term over time, scaled between 0 and 100. Scores are based on the absolute search volume for a term, relative to the number of searches received by Google. They have no direct quantitative meaning, and in this case should only be compared against the same country, and not against each other.

Taking the global top 6 countries, here’s how much audiences have been searching for cinemas (in their native language) over the past year. Note earlier this year the drop off from China and Japan, followed by the rest of the world as the lockdowns spread.

China has since shown signs of recovery, which will be encouraging for other markets as well. And as cinemas reopen across other countries it will indicate how keen audiences are, relative to before the closures.

Google Trends Cinemas Searches

Source: Google Trends

View the complete dashboard with 48 countries trend data

3. Are audiences confident in going?

There are now many polls about how audiences feel about returning to the cinema. They vary in quality, from deliberately misleading, to in depth extensive cross tabulation. I won’t pretend this is 538, but a loose idea that together these polls could indicate a general feeling.

Whilst there is no consistency in format or question, generally the polls ask about how safe people feel about returning to cinemas. I’ve graphed the % positive response, along with sample size and source country. It’s worth mentioning there’s a significant Western bias here, as surveys like this are mostly only reported in a native language, and then circulated within networks.

As the further surveys are published, and my Mandarin improves, we’ll see if any pattern emerges through consensus. For now, sentiment seems to be all over the place, which is perhaps an indication itself.

Audience Sentiment Polls

Vertical axis is positivity, bubble size is the sample size.


4. What do the markets think?

The best prediction indicator - stock markets. It’s not been a pretty few months for the markets overall, but following considerable stimulus, some extraordinary rallies have come after positive signals.

And assuming stock prices are the prediction of a future value, then we can use cinema stock prices as an indicator for how the sector recovery might look.

Here are the performances of the biggest chains in the world for the year so far. This isn’t a direct comparison, but stock prices rebased to 100, so we can see the overall trend. As expected, there’s a massive cliff edge that the whole market fell off - though AMC have shown the best signs of recovery so far, in spite of reporting a $2.18 billion loss.

Cinema Stock Prices Rebased

Source: Google Finance

The next few months will show how the market responds to regulations, reopenings, and audiences.

The one line that didn’t plummet and keeps going up? Netflix.

5. Are cinemas making money?

A lot of this could just be noise, because box office is always the most important metric. But keeping track of the entire international box office is too big a task for me, best left to Variety and Deadline.

Though I do pay attention in the UK, using the dashboard I launched earlier in the year. UK cinemas were having a good start to the year until March, so we’ll be able to see how the sector recovers when cinemas open from July 4th.

Before that, Gower Street have done a series of fascinating pieces on forecasting the recovery across major markets as well.

UK Box Office Gross

View the complete UK Box Office Dashboard

Source: BFI

Code for the world map polygons is from leaflet-gsheets