Box Office Hits Record, But Number of Frequent Moviegoers Drops 10%

Box Office Hits Record, Number of
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Fueled by “Jurassic World,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and other blockbusters, the global box office scaled record heights in 2015, climbing 5% to $38.3 billion, according to a new report by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

It wasn’t just the returns of Luke Skywalker and those man-eating dinosaurs that goosed revenues. Ticket sales were also bolstered by China’s growing appetite for movies. China’s box office jumped a massive 49% in 2015 to $6.8 billion.

Domestically, ticket sales rose 8% to $11.1 billion in 2015, while admissions jumped 4% to 1.32 billion. Two-thirds of the population of U.S. and Canada, some 235.3 million people, went to the movies at least once last year, up 2% from 2014.

“It was strong everywhere,” said Chris Dodd, the head of the MPAA, the movie business’ lobbying arm. “We’re on a great path.”

However, the number of frequent moviegoers, people who go to the cinema at least once a month, decreased by 3.7 million or 10%. Total tickets purchased by frequent moviegoers jumped by 2.9 million, indicating that this group of people saw more movies in 2015 than in the previous year.

For the fourth consecutive year, frequent moviegoers between the ages of 18 and 24 fell, hitting 5.7 million, down from 7 million in 2014, signaling that younger consumers may not be entirely enamored with the big-screen experience. Frequent moviegoers between the ages of 12 and 24 dropped from 5.5 million to 5.3 million, those between the ages of 40 and 49 dropped from 5.7 million to 4.5 million, and ticket buyers between 50 and 59 dipped from 4.2 million to 3.4 million. The only two demographics that saw increases were those between 2 and 11 (2.7 million to 2.9 million) and ticket buyers between 25 and 39 (7.1 million to 7.4 million).

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The report was unveiled at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition trade show unfolding this week in Las Vegas. In public remarks and in a press conference immediately after, the study’s backers and the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, a trade organization for exhibitors, stressed that there were signs that despite the popularity of digital forms of entertainment, teenagers remain fans of theaters. Per capita ticket sales for Americans ages 12 to 17 was 7.3, the highest growth rate of any age demographic, NATO head John Fithian said. He added that although that demographic represents only 8% of the U.S. population, it is responsible for 16% movie tickets purchased.

There was also evidence that being digitally connected doesn’t dissuade consumers from hitting the movie theater. Three-quarters of frequent moviegoers own at least four different types of technology products such as smartphones, tablets and video-game systems. Dodd said social networking sites and mobile phones are helping to drive box office receipts.

“Word-of-mouth no longer exists,” he said. “It’s now word-of-text.”

Hispanic audiences oversampled in terms of their percentage of the population, but saw declines in the number of frequent moviegoers, dipping from 9.6 million to 7.9 million. The number of frequent Caucasian moviegoers also dropped, falling from 21.2 million to 19.3 million. Frequent African-American moviegoers rose slightly, climbing from 3.7 million to 3.8 million.

Hispanics continued to make up a large percentage of the population, making up 19% of domestic moviegoers. Caucasians made up 60% of moviegoers, with African-Americans representing 12%. Women were 51% of moviegoers.

Four of the five highest grossing films — “Jurassic World,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Furious 7” — attracted an audience that was primarily male. Only one film, “Inside Out,” had an audience that was largely made up of women.

“Furious 7” attracted the most ethnically diverse audience. Ticket buyers to the film were 25% Hispanic, 22% African-American and 8% Asian. It was followed by “Jurassic World,” with an audience that was 19% Hispanic, 16% African-American and 11% Asian.

“Diversity in the movie business is the right thing to do and it’s also good for business,” said Fithian.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the frequent movie drop was 17% rather than 10%.

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  1. Rick says:

    It ain’t rocket science. I’m not going to pay $13.00 for a mediocre movie.

  2. Interesting report, would have liked to see mention of the Variety article run last month about MoviePass boosting theater attendance. Seems relevant and a fix for lagging frequency. How is this not a win for moviegoers, studios, and exhibitors?

    http://variety.com/2016/film/news/moviepass-subscription-boosts-theater-attendance-1201737264/

  3. Jack Monte says:

    Well since China keeps 75% of the box office take the number isn’t really 6.8 billion. Also most of China’s box office is for National films not Hollywood ones. Here the movie goers are less frequent due to rising prices and getting less for our money. A 2 hour marvel movie I’ve seen all be done in the last outing doesn’t make me feel like I got more bang for my bucks than if it was an hour and a half and paced decently. Movie shootings draw people away, talking and texting, smoking valentine inside, all could be fixed by a guard or employee in each auditorium throughout each showing but the NATO has zero plans to fix the problems that plague this issue until it’s too late. Right now they’re happy with 3D surcharges. Way to see the big picture.

  4. Adam says:

    No there’s nothing new here that we didn’t know before. Domestic attendance keeps dropping due to other methods of viewing movies and the only reason why total revenue has gone up is because of 3D ticket sales which charge a higher price.

  5. BillUSA says:

    Yeah, and I’m sure ticket prices haven’t risen a bit either. Movies are being watered down thanks to the proliferation of projects which don’t really deserve the go-ahead they get. The latest Star Wars was a garbled mix of plagiarism and lack of imagination. Batman vs. Superman was a borefest. The rom-coms and dramas are tired themes. The industry is suffering for its success and sooner or later, ticket prices are going to approach those of the live stage.

  6. Malcolm says:

    While it’s harder to quantify, “frequent” should mean “see as many movies as interest me” rather than “go every month.” For example, last year there were only half a dozen films my family and I were interested in seeing; this year it’s aboit two a month (except October, I think). Yet technically, neither year will see us go “every month”…

  7. harry georgatos says:

    Hello Screening Room! Theater owners the future has arrived!

  8. Tim says:

    It’s because the cost of going to a movie is too high, in a major city $15 to get in $12 for popcorn and a soda and $2 or $3 to park? Not worth it, I used to see 2 movies a weekend, but it became too high a price compared other ways to spend my leisure time – the same thing will happen next year – ticket prices will go up and attendance will go down, is anyone in NATO paying attention?

    • Adam says:

      I don’t buy that argument. If there are plenty of people around willing to pay 5 bucks for a cup of coffee then there are plenty of people willing to pay 10-12 dollars for 2-3 hours of entertainment. Attendance is dropping not because of rising ticket prices but because of the proliferation of alternate ways of seeing movies (ie home entertainment).

    • wayne Klein says:

      Much of this has to do with the absurd cost of ticket prices and food. A family of three could easily spend $100 for a night at the movies. Theaters and studios need to stop paying outrageous salaries to stars, producers and directors and make movies that can turn a profit with smaller audiences as well.

      • Adam says:

        Plenty of small budget independent films are already being made and many of them do turn a profit. However, the Hollywood film industry is a huge industry and it cannot survive on making mostly low budget artsy films.

      • I agree with you and “Tim” , but the problem isn’t salaries. The talent you listed have been effectively cut out of the heavy revenue stream after Downey earned his last 80 million. The Marvel phenomenon ended all that. Backend deals are over. Talent is now locked in with multi year contracts with limited escalatorsw The problem is (1) theater owners are are screwed out of percentages during first weeks of movie (2) and so they shift costs to consumers (including Regal Cinemas Obama tax on their own employees). Throw in a little corporate greed on both sides and we’re screwed as movie goers. There are very few movies I will pay a premium for to get the benefit of a big screen with all the bells and whistles when I can wait a few months and watch it on my 65 inch with free snacks and nobody texting in the middle of the movie.

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