MPAA 2016 Annual Report: Global Sales Flattened As Chinese Economy Cooled


Global box office sales stalled in 2016 as a 2.4% increase in North America barely offset a 0.4% decline overseas, according to the MPAA’s latest annual Theatrical Market Statistics report released today. (It’s available here.)

Theaters worldwide generated $38.6 billion in ticket sales, a new high but up just 0.5% from 2015.

MPAA Chief Chris Dodd said in a briefing on the report that Millennials in North America increasingly went to the movies while the global business is “vibrant, strong, and growing.”

(He also said, separately, that 60% of movies lose money.)

National Association of Theatre Owners’ John Fithian noted that “everyone said 2016 would be down, and indeed it was not.” He added that 2017 is “off to a great start.”

International moviegoers spent $27.2 billion in 2016, which represents the first year-over-year drop in at least the last decade. Europe, the Middle East and Africa declined 2.1% to $9.5 billion while Latin America fell 17.6% to $2.8 billion.

Asia Pacific countries collectively defied the trend, rising 4.9% to $14.9 billion. That growth is much slower than 2015, when the region was up 14.5% over 2014.

China accounts for much of the slowdown: With $6.6 billion in sales, it was off nearly 3% from 2015. But Japan was up 11% to $2.0 billion while India increased about 19% to $1.9 billion making them the No. 2 and 3 overseas markets, leaping ahead of the UK (down about 11% to $1.7 billion).

The MPAA says sales were hurt by the strength of the U.S. dollar vs foreign currencies, and cooling economic growth in China.

Fithian said it would have been a “record breaking year” overseas without the currency imbalance.

Efforts to increase China’s quota on non-Chinese films can’t begin until a U.S. Trade Representative is confirmed, Dodd says. He noted that nominee Robert Lighthizer is “a very good candidate” who “understands the importance of this industry.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s confirmed unanimously,” he added.

North America hit a record $11.4 billion — mostly due to rising consumer outlays. Moviegoers paid an average $8.65 per ticket, up 2.6% in a year when the consumer price index rose 1%. The number of admissions was flat at 1.32 billion. That comes to 3.8 movies per capita, also flat with 2015.

About 11% of the population are frequent moviegoers — they attend at least once a month — and accounted for nearly half of all North American ticket sales. About 29% didn’t go to the movies, while another 9% just went once.

Audiences were slightly younger than in 2015. The number of frequent moviegoers increased for every age group except those between 40 and 49, and those 60 and older.

Fithian said that while studios are getting better about releasing big films throughout the year — not just during summer and winter holidays — there’s been a “clustering” of films that target adults at the end of the year, close to the Oscar season.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for our customers to come out and see them all,” he says.

With the number of screens virtually flat at 43,531, admissions per screen increased 0.3% to about 30,323.

Sales for 3D movies fell about 8% to $1.6 billion, even though the number of releases increased 30% to 52.

Here’s how some of the data look in chart form:

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