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What Country Has the Most Movie Theaters?

Kevin Ott
Film is Big Business

It is no secret that the film industry is big money all over the world. As Hollywood has expanded its global reach and added theaters in every time zone, some countries have become more theater-crazy than others.

Movie Theater Numbers by Country

The following statistics show something that might surprise you: the United States is no longer the leader in total screen count. Although the U. S. still claims the second spot, other countries are beginning to compete with the United States and other western nations.

1. China: 54,164

Reports show China adding movie screens at the rate of 10 per day between 2010 and 2015. In 2016, the rate increased to 27 per day. By the end of 2016, the country had a little over 39,000 movie screens. In 2018, according to reports from China's government, the country has over 54,000 screens. With a population of 1.4 billion, it's not surprising China leaves every other country below in the dust. What's astonishing is how quickly China got to that number.

2. United States: 40,246

According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the U. S. has about 40,246 screens total, which includes 595 drive-in screens. (Though the link above for "reports from China's government" pegs the U. S. at 40,393). With such dominating studios, production companies, distributors and theater chains, the U. S. will remain a major player in film for generations to come. According to the Motion Picture Association of America the U.S. and Canada combined also have the largest percentage of digital 3D movie screens.

3. India: 11,000

14 million Indians go to the movies each day. WIth the nation's interest in film ballooning to the point of earning the name Bollywood for its unique genre of films, it's not surprising the nation has such moviegoing numbers. UNESCO's most recent global report on theater screen counts globally show India having the third highest number in the world at about 11,000. With a population of 1.3 billion, expect this number to get much bigger in coming years.

4. Mexico: 6,062

According to UNESCO, Mexico's total movie screens are just over 6,000. This is not surprising when you consider the size of some of the country's cities such as Mexico City and its large number of movie theaters. Two of Mexico's biggest cinema chains, Cinepolis and Cinemex, have over 4,800 screens between them.

5. France: 5,741

Reaching the top five is France, as mentioned in UNESCO's total screen count. Although France and the U. S. have clashing tastes in different aspects of its culture, both nations love film. In fact, according to the New York Film Academy, comedies are the favored film genres in both the United States and France.

Other Countries

According to UNESCO's report, the approximate movie screen counts in other nations are as follows (though these are likely a little conservative):

  • Germany: 4,613

  • United Kingdom: 4,046

  • Russia Federation: 4,021

  • Spain: 3,588

  • Italy: 3,354

  • Canada: 3,114

  • Japan: 3,074

  • Brazil: 3,005

  • Australia: 2,210

  • Malaysia: 994

  • Netherlands: 888
  • South Africa: 800
  • Philippines: 747
  • Austria: 557
  • Ireland: 494
  • Belgium: 472
  • Denmark: 432
  • New Zealand: 418
  • Iran - 380
  • Romania: 339
  • Chili: 366
  • Egypt: 221
  • Venezuela: 197
  • Morocco: 57
  • Malta: 35
  • Cuba: 20
  • Senegal - 6
  • Mozambique - 6
  • South Sudan - 1
  • Cook Islands - 1

Defining the Term 'Movie Theater'

As you will see in the sources linked above, when governments and movie industry associations count the number of movie theaters in a region, they only include commercial establishments and they typically use the term 'screens,' not 'theaters.' They will list sub-category totals for 3D digital, standard digital, analogue, and drive-in screens, but they always provide a grand total that includes all screens for that country regardless of type.

What the Future May Look Like

30 years ago not very many people would have predicted China to become the global cinematic powerhouse (in both its film production and market size) that is has become today. The same can be said of India. Though the United States will maintain a firm hold near the top of the list, China and India will likely become the dominant forces of the film industry for decades to come.

What Country Has the Most Movie Theaters?