Asia and Latin America steam ahead at the Box Office while more US films chase fewer US dollars

The just released MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) theatrical statistics for 2011 show a continuing rise in global box office with an overall rise of 3% but that figure masks where the real growth is occurring - which is in China (up 35%) and Latin America (up 24%). The US and Canada, by way of contrast, experienced a 4% drop in box office year on year.  Behind the box office figure, boosted both by inflation and the premium cost of 3D tickets (sales of which dropped, ominously, by 18% from 2010 to 2011) the long-term US decline in admissions is also clear – down from 1.57 bn to 1.28 bn between 2002 and 2011, or per person an average of 5.2 dropping to 3.9.

Taking a longer (five-year) view the report confirms that the US ‘domestic’ market, having grown by just 6% between 2007 and 2011,  continues to decline as a proportion of the global box office as ‘International’ (i.e. non US) box office grew by 35% over the same period.

The ‘regional’ figures show just how fast box office is growing south, west and east of North America:

Territory Percentage change  in box office 2007-11
Europe, Middle East & Africa

+ 24%

Asia Pacific

+38%

Latin America

+86%

TOTAL          

+35%

More low budget and independent films, fewer studio films.

Undaunted by falling ticket sales, US filmmakers are turning out movies in ever greater numbers but more and more of them are low to micro budget while the studios have trimmed their production slates.  MPAA members (the established end of the business) produced 97 films in 2011 compared to 137 in 2007.  By comparison in 2011 non-members made over 400 films (at an estimated $1m or higher budget), up from 360 in 2007.  And at the under$1m budget level production rose to 319 in 2011 from 290 in 2007.

All in all over 800 films were produced in 2011 hoping to get a theatrical release of which around 610 made it onto a big screen, just under a quarter of which (141) were from MPAA members and the balance (469) from non-members.  Which sounds like there is plenty of box office to go round until you consider the way it splits across those releases.

According to box office mojo the top 200 titles of 2011 collected just over $10.02 of the $10.2bn in domestic box office, which left $180m for the remaining 400 odd titles, an average (and as regular readers of this blog will know there are no average films!)  of $450k per film.  Since the 80/20 rule tends to apply all the way down (see previous posts ad nauseum) you can readily see that the majority must have tanked.  Once you get down to no. 300, a film called October Baby, its $199,442 from 14 theatres is far from the worst performance in the charts.

Whose to say if it or any of those languishing further down the charts might still have a life on DVD/VOD but the chances of making a buck are pretty remote.  Those are the breaks at the roulette table of cinema, after all not even Disney get it right every time!

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