Foreign Box Office Flatlines and 8 Other Surprises From MPAA’s 2016 Moviegoing Report

The trade group’s annual Theatrical Market Statistics report included several signs of trouble for studios

The Motion Picture Association of America released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics report for 2016 on Wednesday, revealing multiple details about the year’s box office, moviegoing trends and annual ticket prices.

Average movie ticket prices rose 3 percent from 2015 to 2016, bringing the price up to $8.65. And while the domestic box office increased by 2 percent since the previous year and hit $11.4 billion, and the global box office went up by 1 percent and reached $38.6 billion, the international box office had flatlined.

But all in all, 2016 turned out to be a great year domestically thanks to hits like “Rogue One” and “Finding Dory” — despite analysts having predicted that that would not be the case.

“We are pleased with 2016 because everyone said it was down but it was not,” NATO President John Fithian said in a conference call regarding the report. “Why was that? We were very pleased that the year was broadly successful — there were lots of different movies produced that were great successes. There were nine movies that grossed more than $300 million, whereas there were six the year before. But it wasn’t just gigantic blockbusters — there are smaller production companies that are making bigger movies appealing to the four quadrants. There were 18 percent more movies released into theaters than 10 years ago.”

And 2016 saw more Asian-Americans and African-Americans hitting the movie theaters in previous years, while the number of Caucasian moviegoers decreased.

Here are some other highlights:

1) Global/Domestic Box Office Highs

In 2016, the global box office reached $38.6 million, up 1 percent from 2015. The domestic box office hit $11.4 billion, up 2 percent from the previous year. A total of 1.32 billion tickets were sold in North America, a number that held steady compared to 2015.

2) However, International Box Office Flatlined

Despite studios’ renewed focus on the overseas market, international box office actually flatlined (the percentage value change is calculated with full tables values before rounding). In 2015, the international box office made $27.3 billion — last year, it slipped $27.2 million. Still, the international box office accounted for 71 percent of the total box office in 2016.

3) Japan, India Are Primary Drivers of Growth

Although the international box office stayed stagnant, the report claimed that the box office in the Asia Pacific region increased 5 percent from 2015 to 2016, earning $14.9 million last year. Japan and India were the primary drivers of growth, with a 27 percent increase and a 28 percent increase, respectively.

However, after more than a decade of consecutive gains, China’s box office actually decreased by 1 percent in U.S. dollars from 2015, although it increased slightly (by 4 percent) in local currency.

4) Depreciation of Local Currencies are to Blame for Latin American Dip

Speaking of international box office, the Latin American box office also took a dip of 18 percent in U.S. dollars from 2015 to 2016 except for Brazil, which increased 5 percent. The report blamed the slippage on the depreciation of several currencies against the U.S. dollar in 2016 in the region, which includes Mexico (-15 percent), Argentina (-37 percent) and Venezuela (-31 precent).

5) U.S. Ticket Prices Rose by 3 Percent

Average U.S. movie ticket prices increased 3 percent from 2015 to 2016, with moviegoers paid roughly $8.65 for admission last year.

According to the report, movies cost an average of $8.43 in 2015 and $8.17 in 2014. That means that in the past two years, there has been a consistent increase of 3 percent in average movie ticket prices.

6) 246 Million People Went to a Movie at Least Once in 2016

According to the report, 71 percent of U.S. and Canadian residents aged 2 or older went to the cinema at least once in 2016. That means 246 million people went to the movies at least once, a 2 percent increase from the year before.

The typical moviegoer bought 5.3 tickets over the year — 0.3 tickets less than in 2015.

7) Asian Americans Were the Biggest Moviegoers in the U.S. of Any Ethnic Group

In 2016, Asian Americans were the biggest U.S. moviegoers of any ethnic group, dethroning Hispanics by seeing 1.5 more movies on average that year. The Asian/Other category reported the highest annual attendance per capita in 2016 — on average, Asian Americans went to the movies 6.1 times.

In comparison, Americans of Hispanic descent went to the movies an average 4.6 times, while African Americans went 4.2 times and Caucasians went 3.2 times.

In 2015, the Hispanic population had the biggest per capita attendance with 5.2 average visits, followed by Asians. In 2014, Asians were also the largest moviegoer group, with 5.2 visits on average.

“It’s worthwhile noting that this year we saw an increase in Asian and African American audiences,” MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said in a conference call following the release of the report. “The numbers went up, again — this year, it could’ve been due to ‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Fences’ and ‘Moonlight.’ I don’t know if that would explain Asian numbers, but having products out there that audiences can relate to… there is certainly an effort among studios to achieve more inclusion and participation in minorities and gender. We are trying to do a better job and it deserves being done.”

8) More Women Go to the Movies

The report says that females comprised 51 percent to 52 percent of total moviegoers consistently since 2012, and that percentage did not change in 2016.

9) Digital Is Improving

Cinema screens increased by eight percent worldwide in 2016 to nearly 165,000, due mainly to the double digit growth in the Asia Pacific region. The number of digital screens and Premium Large Format screens are saw double digit growth globally, with a 17 percent and an 11 percent increase, respectively. 95 percent of the world’s cinema screens are digital.

Digital 3D screens continued to grow in 2016 at a faster pace than the previous year. However, the report also states the 3D box office in 2016 was down 8 percent from 2015 with $1.6 billion, comprising 14 percent of the total box office.

“A lot of it is innovation in cinema space,” Fithian said. “Millennials love new technology, love premium format screens and recliners, so the money we are investing into theaters is attracting young moviegoers to the movies.”