Global Box Office Hits Record in 2012 as Hispanic Attendance Grows in U.S.

China surpasses Japan as largest overseas market according to MPAA report

Global box office grew to a record $34.7 billion in 2012, with domestic totals reaching a benchmark $10.8 billion, according to the annual theatrical statistics report released today by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

A steady four-year decline in teen attendance per capita is reason for concern, but that was offset by a surge in attendance from Hispanics and moviegoers aged 40-49, noted MPAA chief Chris Dodd and John Fithian, prexy and CEO of the National Assn. of Theater Owners.

International 2012 box office ended at $23.9 billion, up 6% over last year. Overseas growth is largely due to a booming Chinese box office, which at $2.7 billion makes it the largest overseas market,  surpassing Japan for the first time. European B.O. fell 1% from 2011, with depressed year-over-year totals in France and Italy.

Dodd credited the surge in China partly to a “voracious appetite for product,” but he also acknowledged the lack of restrictions on joint local productions as a huge growth potential for the industry.

Most of the top 10 overseas markets held steady or saw improvements, especially in Asia (largely because of 3D and digital deployment).

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At home, 3D box office, which contributed $1.8 billion, came in line with last year. That’s despite fewer 3D films released in 2012, resulting in an average ticket price that stayed flat with 2011. Domestic ticket sales also grew 6% vs. last year, which marks the largest admissions improvement in a decade.

While the number of teens who go to movies frequently actually increased 10.5% over 2011, teens overall go to movies 21.5% less than they did in 2009. In 2009, auds 12-17 went to the movies an average of nearly eight times a year, while in 2012, the frequency sunk to 6.2 times per year.

Fithian described the occurrence as a “good news-bad news” scenario offset by all-around growth among Hispanic auds. While the average U.S. moviegoer goes to the multiplex 4.1 times per year, the average for Hispanic auds is 6.4 times per year. And Hispanics currently buy a quarter of all tickets sold in the U.S., continuing a strong upward trend.

“If your entire industry is focused on teens, you’re never going to make it,” Fithian said. “We hope that all demographics go to the movies.”

Dodd added: “We see frequent moviegoers as an important long-term constituency. People enjoy the product.”

Disney-Marvel’s “The Avengers” was the top-grossing film last year, with $623.4 million domestically, followed by Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” ($448.1 million) and “The Hunger Games” ($408 million). There were 25 films last year that grossed $100 million or more.

So far, 2013 year-to-date box office is down 12% from last year, a comparison that neither Fithian or Dodd seem too concerned about.

“The diversity of the movie slate in the first quarter was just not there,” Fithian said. “The comps for the next couple of quarters will be quite strong.”

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