The American film industry generated $43.4 billion in revenue last year, increasing in each of the past five years at an annualized rate of just 2.2%, according to a report by the research firm IBISWorld obtained by Deadline. The rather gloomy study, filled with terms such as “stagnating,” “sluggish,” “modest” and “slow growth,” projected that revenue growth will slow to only 2% in each of the next five years.
Even so, the report found that the film industry is “growing slightly faster than the overall economy,” and projects it will retain more of its revenue as profit than in years past – 12.6% in 2017, compared with just 10.6% in 2012.
The report projected that through 2022, industry revenue will increase at an annualized rate of 2.0% to $47.9 billion, even though domestic box office is expected to “continue stagnating” during that time frame, growing at a lackluster annualized rate of 1.1%.
“Movie attendance will remain largely flat. Continually increasing access to home entertainment options will likely deter consumer spending on movie theater outings, forcing the industry to rely more heavily on other domestic licensing revenue, such as on-demand video and online streaming. This will put pressure on the studio model.”
The report’s downbeat box office projections are consistent with a recent MPAA report that found movie admissions in the U.S. and Canada hit a 10-year low last year, dipping 6% to 1.24 billion tickets sold.
Through 2022, “the industry is expected to sustain modest growth,” the IBISWorld report states. “Shifting domestic distribution channels, including a sluggish box office, will continue to pose a challenge for the industry. Meanwhile, new digital players that have already inched into film production will pose a threat to major studios unlike any other they have experienced since the premiere of the talkie. However, during the five-year period, the overall industry will remain in demand, and foreign distribution of US films will likely continue growing strongly.”
The report found that seven major studios control more than four-fifths of total film industry revenue, led by Disney (18.2%), NBCUniversal (16.4%), Time Warner (16.2%); 21st Century Fox (12.9%) and Sony (12.1%).
According to the report, films shown at the domestic box office now make up less than a quarter of all the revenue they generate, with foreign distribution accounting for 36.1%. The largest source of revenue (39.1%) came from ancillary forms of domestic distribution including the sale of Blu-rays and DVDs, direct-to-consumer film rentals through video-on-demand services, and licensing fees from television broadcasters and streaming services.
The report found that California remains the center of film production in the U.S., accounting for 40% of all production work, with New York a distant second (13.9%).
The average film industry worker, meanwhile, makes more than $84,000 a year, with the industry providing $7.8 billion in wages last year. Wages, the report found, are the industry’s second-largest cost, accounting for nearly 18% of revenue last year. The report also estimated that employment had grown by an average of 5% in each of the last five years – meaning that the workforce would have grown by more than 25% during that time span. If true, that would make the film industry’s workforce one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.
The report also found that the majority (54.1%) of all films produced last year were “action and adventure” films – tentpole movies designed to attract younger audiences, both domestic and foreign. Only 7.6% were comedies, 15.1% were “thriller/suspense,” 12% were dramas and 11.2% were “other” or “other genres.”
The report also had a warning about the industry’s “increased reliance on blockbusters,” which it said could prove “a vulnerability” in the years ahead.
“Consumer tastes are fickle, and the industry sits at the center of a charged culture, making the success of any one film exceedingly unpredictable. When an expected blockbuster flops, the repercussions are even more devastating for the studio, as these films have usually been backed by massive production and promotional budgets. Not only have blockbusters become more central to the industry’s success, but they have also become less diversified. Seeing signs of a resurgence in superhero films, the industry in recent years rushed to license comic book characters and even acquire comic book companies. The major studios have made substantial investments in the genre, planning dozens of films through 2020. Although consumer enthusiasm for these films has shown few signs of diminishing, the concentration of investment in any one genre poses the risk of a bubble that could hamper industry profit if audience preferences shift.”