U.S. movie admissions rebounded 5.5% last year to 1.3 billion, a year after posting the lowest admissions number since 1995, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported.
North American box office for the year surged 6.9% to $11.85 billion, NATO said Wednesday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the end of the year by box office tracker Comscore.
Overall ticket sales peaked in 2002 with 1.57 billion, then declined to 1.52 billion in 2003 and 1.48 billion in 2004. Those are still the highest admissions years over the past three decades.
The average 2018 ticket price increased 1.6% from $8.97 to $9.11 with the fourth quarter average edging down to $9.03 from 2017’s $9.18. The decline in the fourth quarter pricing appears to be due to the 2017 quarter containing “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which generated premium prices.
The NATO report also showed that the biggest demographic jump in North American moviegoing during 2018 took place in the 55 and up group, with the share surging from 5.8% to 6.4% of the total box office. The biggest demographic decline came in the 10 and under group, which registered a share decline from 6.9% to 6.1%.
2018 saw a trio of Disney titles clear the $600 million mark in North American grosses: “Black Panther” at $700 million, “Avengers: Infinity War” at $678 million, and “Incredibles 2” at $608 million. Men comprised 51.3% of moviegoers and women totaled 48.7%. “Avengers: Infinity War” saw male ticket-buyers top 60%.
NATO spokesman Patrick Corcoran said the wide range of titles led to the increase in moviegoing in 2018.
“When the movies are there, people show up, and when you have a broad range of titles, a broad range of audiences show up,” he said. “From top to bottom – ‘Black Panther’ on down to four documentaries bringing in more than $10 million each – you build a big audience through lots of different audiences of all sizes.”