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Box office reaches new record, but int’l sales flat

US, Canada lift global box office

This image released by Warner Bros Pictures shows Jane Kaczmarek in a scene from ‘CHIPS’ which opens in the US on March 24. (AP)

LOS ANGELES, March 23, (Agencies): Worldwide movie ticket sales increased by 1 percent to a record $38.6 billion in 2016 as theaters in the United States and Canada rung up higher sales and overseas returns were fl at, according to industry statistics released on Wednesday. Movie theaters have been competing with an explosion of digital entertainment options such Netflix Inc’s streaming service, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, and mobile apps and video games. In 2016, films including Walt Disney Co’s “Finding Dory” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” helped lift box office revenue at US and Canadian theaters by 2 percent to $11.4 billion, the Motion Picture Association of America said. In international markets, ticket sales finished the year nearly unchanged from 2015 at $27.2 billion. After years of booming growth in China, box office revenue in that country dropped 1 percent in US dollars.

China is the world’s second-largest film market behind the United States and Canada. In the United States, the average movie ticket price increased by 3 percent in 2016 to $8.65. The MPAA’s annual report showed a global increase of .5 percent in ticket sales from 2015. While China, the world’s second-largest market after the US, has long been a priority of Hollywood, it dropped 1 percent last year with $6.6 billion in ticket sales. Box office in North America hit a record $11.4 billion, although the increase of $300 million was due largely to rising ticket prices.

About 11 percent of North Americans, the MPAA said, are frequent moviegoers — those who go to the theater at least once a month. They make up 48 percent of all tickets sold. About 71 percent of the US/Canadian population went to the movies at least once in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015. Among the year’s biggest box-office hits were “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” ‘’Finding Dory” and “Captain America: Civil War” — all of them, it’s worth noting, released by the Walt Disney Co. The MPAA noted that three of the top five grossing films drew a majority female audience. Other notable conclusions from the report include:

■ Younger moviegoers increased. The biggest jump was for 18- to 24-year-olds, who went on average 6.5 times in 2016, up from 5.9 times in 2015.

■ The appeal of 3-D continued to slide. Sales of 3-D movies fell about 8 percent to $1.6 billion, even though there were 30 percent more 3-D releases.

■ African-American and Asian moviegoers continue to increase. Per capita, Asians/Other Ethnicities go more than any other group, seeing on average 6.1 movies a year. “It’s a tough business,” said Dodd. Audiences in the US and Canada also got a little younger, a good sign for an industry that is worried that millennials are turning away from the big screen in favor of gaming, streaming services, and other digital forms of entertainment. In 2016, 18-24 year olds went to the movies an average of 6.5 times over the year, up 0.6% from 2015 and the largest increase of any age group. The only age brackets that saw declines were those between the ages of 40 to 49 year old and those over 60. Dodd was joined on the call by John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theater Owners, an exhibition industry trade group.

Fithian called fears that young people have stopped going to movies “a myth,” and argued that the movie business is well positioned to weather the technological tumult that has upended the music and print media industries. “Yes there’s disruption and new technology, but people are still coming to the cinemas in strong numbers,” said Fithian. He noted that most industry analysts predicted that ticket sales would drop in 2016, because major franchises such as James Bond and the Avengers weren’t releasing new installments. In that climate, coming in on par with 2015 was a victory, he argued, maintaining that the results would have been even better were it not for unfavorable currency exchanges.

The MPAA is the major studios’ lobbying arm in Washington, DC, where it primarily is focused on the issue of piracy and in overseeing ratings guidelines for new releases. It also compiles a global and domestic snapshot of the moviegoing consumer. The group’s research found that the Stateside crowds for films were growing more diverse. Caucasians continued to make up the majority of moviegoers (59%), but per capita attendance increased for African-Americans and for audiences in the Asian/other category compared to 2015.

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