In his 09-Nov-2019 New York Times Opinion piece Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain. the director, writer and producer laments "the sameness of today’s franchise pictures", and says:
It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever...
this being one illustration of the author's point that formulaic and highly market-engineered franchise films that draw huge audiences and consume a large fraction of all available screens are making it difficult to get, for the lack of a better term, artistic film from big-screen time, and pushing it to the streaming world.
...the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.
Of course literally speaking "fewer... than ever" can't be true, since several hundred years ago there were zero.
Question: But is there data available on the number of independent theaters or screens over time, and does it show that the number, either in the US or worldwide, is in decline?