International theaters in 1992 yielded $ 1.44 billion in feature film rentals to the major American distributors. Adding in the all-time record $ 2 billion from U.S. screens, the global take rose more than 5% to $ 3.44 billion, second-highest ever.

For the eighth consecutive year — and the 10th time ever — Japan was the top export market. Germany encored in second position, while France, Canada and U.K./Ireland also repeated their rankings of the previous two years.

Data comes from the official report to members of the Motion Picture Export Assn. of America, the export arm of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The “weak” dollar vis-a-vis other world currencies was the principal factor in last year’s $ 1.44 billion export rental figure nosing ahead of $ 1.43 billion in 1991.

For example, U.S. major distribs’ rentals fell 23% in Japanese yen, but after conversion, the drop eased to 18% –$ 165.1 million vs. earlier $ 200.7 million. In German marks, rentals rose 7% but in dollars the gain was 14% to $ 162.3 million from $ 142.4 million.

The accompanying data table presents the top 15 export markets in 1992 and comparisons to the two prior years. These key areas typically generate about 80% of all export rentals from theaters. The top five account for just over 50%.

The record annual export rental figure of $ 1.65 billion was set in 1990. Japan’s figure that year was a record $ 236.7 million.

Meanwhile, the record U.S.-only rental total of $ 2 billion represents a jump of almost 9% from the old record of $ 1.85 billion achieved in 1991.

Globally, the $ 3.44 billion total is 5% ahead of $ 3.27 billion for 1991, and not far behind 1990’s record world yield of $ 3.48 billion. Rental numbers represent the distributors’ share of theatrical box office, plus some minor revenues from the overseas sale of advertising materials. In the U.S., the major distribs average on a statistical basis about 45% of underlying B.O. revenues; blockbuster hits take percentages of 55% or more, while the majors’ duds yield 40% or less.

In international markets, where cartel operations are the norm, the distributors’ statistical share of B.O. is in the 35% range.

Among the key export markets, annual rankings are fairly steady. A major change in 1992 was Brazil, for years ranked ninth or 10th but depressed by hyper-inflation to 15th spot.

Returning to the top 15 after 12 years was Argentina, beset for two decades by political upheavals.

The U.S. share of the world rental market in 1992 was 58%. Adding in Canada’s $ 130.4 million tally, the combined (and misnamed) “domestic” market total of $ 2.14 billion translates to 62% of the global figure. (This is within the typical 60-65% range for the two nations.)

Not reflected in these numbers are feature film revenues from vidcassettes, pay TV, free TV, cable TV and other post-theatrical markets. The MPAA guards the all-media feature revenue grand total with impressive efficiency.

But with estimates of $ 14 billion to $ 15 billion for the grand total, theatrical rentals of $ 3.44 billion represent about 25% of the pie; in 1980, theater rentals were 80%.

Hence the paradox that the medium which establishes economic value in all ancillary markets now accounts for only one quarter of the pie.

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