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postheadericon Coming Soon: the World’s First 10,000 Screen Circuit?

A lesser-known Dodona Research publication is a compilation of circuit screen counts across around 60 territories, laid out as a grid. So circuit A has x screens in territory D, y screens in territory J, and z screens in total. It’s a survivor from the rush into international markets of a decade ago. With exhibitors having spent the last few years tidying up sub-scale foreign investments, nowadays our Cinema Exhibitors Database mostly serves as a prospects list for equipment manufacturers.

But it’s not without interest in its original role of measuring market concentration. For example, the three circuits which dominate the US market – Regal, AMC and Cinemark – are vastly larger than their nearest competitors with more than 17,000 screens between them. Fourth-placed Organizacion Ramirez Cinemas, based in Mexico, has 2,337.

Despite their size, however, they are less dominant within their home market than other exhibitors elsewhere. Not just small markets like Finland or Sweden but even the UK which, measured by box office, is currently the fifth largest theatrical market in the world after the United States, Japan, India (if you believe the figures), and France.

After a round of consolidation, the UK’s top three circuits now account for more than 60% of the country’s screens compared to the 40% of US screens owned by Regal, AMC and Cinemark. Both countries show a long term trend towards greater concentration, as the graph below illustrates.

Top 3 Circuits: % Share of Screens

Today Regal has 6,777 screens in the United States. In the UK it took 15 years for the share of the top 3 circuits to go from 40%, where the US is today, to 60%-plus. If the US follows suit, the odds are that its leading circuit will operate over 10,000 screens. If, as seems possible, digital technology makes running big circuits easier and more profitable, this milestone could come even sooner.

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