H’wood: Land Of The Rising Sum

It cost more than $50 million for the major Hollywood studios to produce and market a film in 1994, up a whopping 15% from the previous year.

Also last year, the domestic box office expanded 4.7% to a record $5.39 billion.

That was among the bad and good news of admission, box office and production cost figures for 1994 that Motion Picture Assn. of America president Jack Valenti imparted to theater owners in his speech March 7 at the opening ceremonies of NATO/ShoWest ’95.

According to MPAA data gleaned from the studios and other sources, the average cost for the 115 films produced by MPAA members was $34.3 million, with an additional $16.1 million spent on prints and advertising. (In 1994, the majors released a total of 168 films.)

Valenti was noticeably chagrined by the 14% to 15% rise in the cost to make and release a film, largely a result of spiraling above-the-line costs.

Valenti’s address was chock-a-block with statistics. On his asset side of the ledger was a boost in admissions to 1.29 billion – the highest yearly rate since 1960.

In contrast to the MPAA’s $5.39 billion domestic B.O. figure, Variety box office calculations for the same period were in the neighborhood of $5.26 billion. But the MPAA includes such outlets as Imax and other free-standing venues. An Imax rep estimated his operation grossed roughly $100 million in 1994, which narrowed the B.O. difference to an acceptable 2.5% statistical margin of error.

The MPAA prexy struck an optimistic note with news of rapidly expanding revenue streams from foreign markets. Estimating that 41% of MPAA company revenues comes from overseas markets, Valenti said, “We would be dead without foreign.”

Valenti also cited a joint NATO-MPAA research study centered on the composition of the audience. That as well as a Variety-Gallup survey, plainly indicate disproportional growth outside the core 17-to 22-year-old moviegoer.

Valenti said his organization conducted a poll of moviegoers (which the MPAA designates as anyone who has seen a single film during the year) and frequents (those seeing a film a month), which showed attendance among both groups on the decline. But that modest erosion in the past five years was made up for and bettered with a 23% boost in attendance by those 40 and over.

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