Figures from S&P Global Market intelligence and OPUSData depict a 92% collapse between January and June, compared with the first half of last year. Aggregate cinema revenue was just $603 million in six months.
In a normal year, Asia is the world’s most lucrative box office region worth more than $17 billion annually. It also includes the three largest national markets outside North America; China, Japan and South Korea.
Instead, under the influence of COVID-19 shutdowns and consumer fears, the first half picture was anything but normal.
The S&P snapshot shows China, where cinemas were closed for more than five months, with box office down by 98%. Box office in Japan, where cinemas closed much later, was down 75% with a gross of $216 million. Korea recorded box office of $181 million, a decline of 79%. Australia managed $116 million, a year-over-year decrease of 73%.
The S&P analysts also looked at the volume of film releases. These collapsed from 140 in January, to 41 in April, and 39 in May. Korea managed a surprising 194 releases over the period, but other countries, notably Japan and Australia “are showing the clearest signs of recovery,” according to the authors.
Japan imposed a national emergency between April 7 and May 25, 2020. What followed was a voluntary theater-by-theater, chain-by-chain process, with no single date when all theaters closed or reopened. The country also saw Cannes- and Oscar-winning Korean film “Parasite” run off with a $43.9 million haul.
No new films were released in mainland China between the end of January and the end of June. But some Chinese theaters have begun to reopen since July 20, with capacity capped at 30%. Australian cinemas also started to open from July 2, after the end of S&P period of study.