It's an anxious time in the cinema industry with most of the world's movie theatres still closed amid the coronavirus crisis and continuing delays in the release of blockbuster movies aren't helping.
Vista Group International chief executive Kimbal Riley describes the situation as "a mixed bag" with early reopeners South Korea and France reporting strong demand, despite the lack of blockbusters.
Such developments matter a lot to Vista, which has customers in more than 90 countries and claims 51 per cent of cinema circuits with 20 or more locations outside of China.
And while it counts movie makers and distributors among its customers, exhibitors account for more than 80 per cent of its business.
Covid-19 put the kibosh on Vista's plan to increase its stake in its joint venture in China where cinemas remain closed indefinitely after an aborted attempt at reopening in March.
Evo Entertainment's cinemas in Texas, one of the first to adopt Vista's reopening technology covering everything from contactless payment to social distancing in seat allocation, have remained open, Riley said.
That's despite the Texan authorities closing bars again in reaction to resurgent infection rates – the daily toll of new infections in the US has passed 50,000 with Texas among the states with the fastest growth.
Late release dates
But the major operators in the rest of the United States are delaying reopening because of the movie release delays, rather than what's happening to infection rates.
Release dates for movies such as Tenet, a spy film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and Mulan, a Disney movie about a Chinese woman warrior directed by New Zealand's Niki Caro of Whale Rider fame, keep being pushed back.
Mulan was to have premiered in March and that was postponed to late July and then to late August while Tenet was to have opened in mid-July but the date has been pushed out twice so far.
Other movies the major cinema operators are hanging out for include A Quiet Place Part II, Wonder Woman 1984 and Russell Crowe's latest effort, Unhinged, which currently looks like it might be the first post-Covid lockdown release.
AMC, the largest cinema chain in the US and Canada but not a Vista customer, and the next two largest chains, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas, which are both Vista customers, keep postponing their reopening date as these successive delays have been announced. Britain's Cineworld, which owns Regal, has also delayed reopening.
AMC chief executive Adam Aron said earlier this week that the "happy day when we can welcome guests back into most of our US theatres" is now Thursday, July 30, two weeks later than the company's previous reopening date.
Regal, the second-largest chain in the US, has delayed its reopening by three weeks to July 31 while Cineworld plans to reopen throughout Britain and Ireland then too.
"With the ongoing pandemic, this new date remains subject to final confirmation," Cineworld said.
"We know how much you've been missing the cinema and we are excited to welcome you back to Cineworld soon!"
Cinemark, the third-largest chain in the US, has opened several theatres in Dallas and had planned to reopen most locations through the first two weeks of July but is now targeting July 24.
Reports from South Korea describe audience numbers as "very encouraging" and at their highest levels since February while cinemas in France are reporting that even quite old movies, such as a re-release of the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski, first released in 1998, are finding an audience.
Memento Films reported strong ticket sales for La Bonne Epouse starring Juliette Binoche, which was released just before the lockdowns began.
France's Les Cinemas Pathe Gaumont signed up for Vista technology in 2018 after using its systems in cinemas in Switzerland and Belgium and, despite the virus, signed an agreement in May to extend the relationship into the Netherlands.
But despite such developments, Vista notified the market last month that it doesn't know when the bulk of its customers will be able to reopen in any meaningful way.
So, it's hardly surprising that Vista shares are down nearly 60 per cent year to date while the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index has recovered to pre-lockdown levels.