These US cities have the most movie theater screens


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The newest James Bond movie could be a tagline for struggling movie theaters in 2021: No Time To Die.

This echoes the challenges faced by cinemas in the age of Covid. Time and time again, the release of James Bond movie No. 25 had been canceled as lockdowns forced theaters to close.

And just like the Bond franchise, cinema must reinvent itself to survive in the modern world. In the 20-year gap between GoldenEye (1995) and Spectre (2015), ticket sales for all movies rose by precisely zero, staying at 1.3 billion tickets worldwide while the global population grew by 2 billion.

Online movie streaming is a formidable villain, but this is not a zero-sum game. Netflix et al. have the advantage of convenience and affordability. But streaming has revitalized our passion for movies. And that passion is tempting us “out of retirement” and to go back to the theaters in record numbers.

So what are ticket prices like across the globe, and which countries have the most screens at the ready if they want to cure that movie theatre itch?

Image Credit: Geber86.

Key Findings

  • El Salvador has the world’s cheapest average ticket price, equating to $0.52/ticket.
  • The priciest movie tickets are in Lebanon, at an average of $29.78 each.
  • Mali has the world’s least affordable movie tickets, costing $4.48 or 59% of the average daily wage.
  • The U.S. has the second-highest number of movie screens per 100,000 people (26), following St. Kitts and Nevis (13.16).

Image Credit: Antonio_Diaz / iStock.


To determine the price to watch a movie in every country, we manually researched the cost of movie tickets in over 250 theaters across 120 countries. The average price of a movie ticket in every country is a composite of the real movie ticket price as of September 2021 at one to three cinema chains in every country. We then converted the average movie ticket price in local currency to the U.S. dollar using conversion rates as of September 2021.

Data on the median estimated daily income by country used to calculate moviegoing affordability came from the World Population Review.

Data on the number of screens in each country primarily came from UNESCO and Cinema Treasures, and was adjusted for population using data from the World Bank. Data on the number of screens by US city and state came from Cinema Treasures and was adjusted for population using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and simplemaps.

Image Credit: Credit: Antonio_Diaz / istockphoto.

Ticket prices around the world

A movie ticket costs 52 cents in El Salvador, the cheapest average in the world.  Meanwhile, Norway ($14.43) and Australia ($12.16) have among the most expensive tickets in the world, but they are still very affordable for those earning the average wage or more. Additionally, Canada ($10.86) and Germany ($10.18) each have movie tickets that are north of $10  without being extortionate.

In comparison, the average U.S. ticket will set you back $16.96. However, the highest ticket prices goes to Lebanon at  an average of $29.78.

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Most movie screens around the world

With a population of just 53,192, it’s not too hard to find a seat in the only movie theater on St. Kitts, which has seven screens. That’s 13.16 screens per 100k, the best availability in the world. The U.S. has a population more than 6,000 times larger than St. Kitts but still takes second place for screens-per-head thanks to its 40,393 screens. Only China has more screens: 50,776 for a population four times greater than that of the U.S. On the other end of the spectrum, Congo has the least number of screens per 100k at just .01.

Image Credit: nantonov / istockphoto.

Most movie screens in the US

The number of cinema screens in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1987 (in James Bond years, that’s The Living Daylights). North Dakota stakes an unlikely claim to be America’s capital state of movie-going, with 41.7 screens for every 100,000 inhabitants.

But when broken down by city, no city in North Daokta cracks the top 10. Instead, three California cities made it into the top 10 screens per 100k population, the highest of any state. Texas and Georgia both also had two cities each on the list.

On the other hand, Cape Coral, Florida, had the least number of screens per 100k at just .1, followed closely by Murrieta, California, and Bonita Springs, Florida, both with .2 each. Another Florida city, Palm Bay, comes in at No. 4 for least screens per population with .4, followed by Paradise, Nevada, rounding out the bottom five with just .4 screens per population.

Then which cities have the most screens in the U.S.?

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10. Missoula, Montana

Screens per 100K population: 35.5

Image Credit: prizrak2084 .

9. Longview, Texas

Screens per 100K population: 35.9

Image Credit: Marti157900 / iStock.

8. Pasadena, California

Screens per 100K population: 36.9

Image Credit: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif..

7. Albany, Georgia

Screens per 100K population: 37

Image Credit: Twister3328 / Wiki Commons.

6. Terre Haute, Indiana

Screens per 100K population: 37.8

Image Credit: Wildnerdpix / iStock.

5. Berkeley, California

Screens per 100K population: 39.6

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4. Lawton, OKlahoma

Screens per 100K population: 41.9

Image Credit: Crimsonedge34 / Wiki Commons.

3. Boca Raton, Florida

Screens per 100K population: 44.1

Image Credit: ddmitr / iStock.

2. San Angelo, Texas

Screens per 100K population: 45.5

Image Credit: Michael Barera / Wiki Commons.

1. Santa Monica, California

Screens per 100K population: 50.9

Image Credit: nata_rass/ istockphoto.

The Future of Cinema

Even Santa Monica theaters are struggling in the pandemic’s wake. But even if American ticket prices are at the high end of the scale (averaging at $16.96), they remain pretty affordable (2.4% of the average daily pay) even as they outstrip stagnant wages.

The audience is there for the taking once theater doors fully reopen. But in an age of prestige TV, can blockbuster filmmakers offer anything more than bigger and bigger explosions to tempt them back?

Only the future will tell if there really is no time to die for cinema.


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