North America has long been the No. 1 market for moviegoing, but pandemic closures have shifted global ticket sale trends
China movie theater
Credit: Getty

China has reportedly surpassed North America in terms of bigger box office returns as the United States continues to grapple with how to safely reopen movie theaters.

According to newfound data from Artisan Gateway, an Asian film and cinema industry consulting firm, the Chinese moviegoing market has now unseated North American totals in 2020 to become the No. 1 box office globally, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The outlet added that by Sunday, total movie theater ticket sales in China reached $1.988 billion, compared to the $1.937 billion haul at the same time stateside.

As the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to stall the Hollywood output of blockbusters (high-profile films like the new James Bond and Fast & Furious entries have postponed release dates), the industry struggles to attract audiences to the select movie theaters that have reopened.

Regal Cinemas, the second-biggest movie theater chain in the country, announced earlier this month that it is forced to temporarily close all its locations.

"The prolonged closures have had a detrimental impact on the release slate for the rest of the year, and, in turn, our ability to supply our customers with the lineup of blockbusters they've come to expect from us," Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Regal's parent company Cineworld, said at the time. "As such, it is simply impossible to continue operations in our primary markets."

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Greidinger specifically pointed to movie theaters not being allowed to reopen in New York City, one of the major moviegoing markets in the U.S.

"Despite our work, positive feedback from our customers and the fact that there has been no evidence to date linking any COVID cases with cinemas, we have not been given a route to reopen in New York, although other indoor activities — like indoor dining, bowling and casinos were already allowed," said Greidinger.

Over the weekend, however, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that movie theaters can resume business on Oct. 23 in the state — outside of New York City, though. The guidelines specify that the cinemas must limit capacity to 25 percent, with no more than 50 customers per screening room.

The partially reopened state of the movie theater business in the U.S. has resulted in record-low ticket sales in recent weeks. Studios that did decide to pursue theatrical releases for major movies, as Warner Bros. did with Christopher Nolan's Tenet, struggled to make a dent domestically.

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