After being introduced by former Sen. Chris Dodd as his best friend, NATO chief John Fithian took the stage at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace to outline his top 10 reasons why 2015 will be a record-breaking year at the worldwide box office.
“First, we have movies playing in all 12 months of the year,” Fithian told CinemaCon attendees in regards to how movies played outside their hot zones of summer and Christmas. “Wall Street predicted that January through March, the first quarter, would be down because of the movie slate, but box office was up by 3%. That surprise happened because Clint Eastwood presented serious drama in Janaury (with American Sniper), because February is a great time for love and because family movies work any time of the year.” Fithian gave props to Universal for using all 12 months of the calendar with the record-breaking success of Furious 7. Fithian also projected that 2015 will see the opening of four and maybe six movies that will top $1 billion worldwide.
The second reason why B.O. will be high this year is in large part thanks to the ladies. “It will be the year of women,” said Fithian. While studies have shown that only 12% of lead roles went to women, even though women bought half the tickets at the box office. Referring to Fifty Shades Of Grey, Cinderella and Insurgent, Fithian said: “Three successful movies so far this year had women in leading roles and sold 60% or more tickets to women. And we have so much more to come, with big female roles in horror, comedy, science fiction, animation, family, Western, thriller and action. Personally, I am so pleased that my daughter can see more women in leading roles than ever before.”
A third factor that will drive 2015 toward a record, “there’s movie in the lineup that appeal to all ages,” said Fithian, “For families, each month offers at least one wide release that’s rated PG or G, and they’re nicely spread out to avoid cannibalization.”
Another driver will be exhibitors updating of their sight and sound in-theater amenities, from 4D motion-enabled seats for blockbusters like Furious 7 and laser-illuminated projection systems.
The fifth reason why 2015 is on a course to break records per Fithian is because “the industry can take pride in our efforts to expand access to patrons with disabilities. Our studio partners provide all movies with captions for the deaf and audio description for the blind. At NATO we reached a historic agreement with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community for the rollout of caption technology in our cinemas.”
“In a recent survey of NATO members, preservation of the theatrical released window scored the top priority for exhibitors. And there’s some good news on this issue as distributors and exhibitors continued to work together on models that work for the entire industry. The one-off and radical simultaneous-release experiments garner media attention, but our major distribution partners know that theatrical exclusivity drives the entire business,” said Fithian, explaining the sixth reason why 2015 will be a record-breaking year.
Fithian attributed the seventh factor for banner B.O. to the savings for the digital visual print costs. Given that exhibs are in the final phase of digital rollout, this year the costs expended on equipment begins to be recouped. The NATO chief said distributors will save more than $1 billion domestically and even more overseas. The savings will enable distributors to make more favorable deals with exhibitors and even might widen release patterns on certain movies.”
The drum that’s often beaten at CinemaCon, even going back to the ShoWest days when MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti kicked off the confab, is how moviegoing is still the best bargain when it comes to entertainment. “The price of admission has remained affordable,” Fithian pointed out as the eighth reason why 2015 is going to be great. “The average ticket price last year was $8.17. If you go back 40 years and take that average and adjust for inflation, that ticket would cost more than $9.”
Reason No. 9: The fact that theaters are more luxurious than ever — from high-end food choices to cushy leather seats. “The moviegoing environment has never felt so good,” said Fithian.
Lastly, the NATO chairman praised the excellent customer service at theaters as a contributor to what is to be a stellar box office year, explaining how the trade org has at exhibs’ disposal “online training programs for theater staff to facilitate patron satisfaction.”