Global Box Office Up, Domestic Box Office Down in 2011 (Updated)

The Chinese box office grew by 35 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, by far the largest growth in major markets, the MPAA reports

For the movie industry, overseas was the good news in 2011.

The international box office rose 7 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, but the domestic box office fell 4 percent in that same period, according to statistics released by the MPAA on Thursday.

Worldwide, the box office reached $32.6 billion in 2011, up 3 percent from 2010.

The biggest growth was in China, where the box office grew by 35 percent, to $2 billion. The world's most populous nation is now the second-largest international market, after Japan. The Japanese box office was $2.3 billion in 2011.

To be sure, the domestic box office remains vitally important. In 2011, the U.S./Canada box office was $10.2 billion — more than five times that of China.

But it was still down 4 percent compared to 2010.

Still, the MPAA and National Association of Theatre Owners are upbeat about this year's domestic box office.

"The numbers so far in 2012 and the outlook … is incredibly strong," John Fithian, NATO's president, said during a conference call with MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd Thursday morning. "We're up nearly 15 percent already and that's going to change … with 'Hunger Games.'

Dodd, too, said that "there's reason to be very, very optimistic about the future of this industry and the appetite globally — as well as at home — for the product."

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The statistics show the importance of keeping moviegoers coming back for more: Frequent moviegoers — people who go to the movies once a month or more — make up only 10 percent of the population, but half the tickets purchased in 2011.

In the United States and Canada, the average ticket price increased by 1 percent from 2010 to 2011 — to $7.93. The average ticket price in 2002 was $5.81.

Theaters sold 1.28 billion movie tickets in 2011, a 4 percent decrease from the 1.34 billion tickets sold in 2010. In 2002, theaters sold 1.57 billion tickets.

Caucasians remained the most frequent moviegoers in North America in 2011, making up 56 percent of frequent moviegoers. But considering Caucasians make up 65 percent of the population, the number is surprisingly low.

Latinos, by contrast, made up 16 percent of the U.S. population and 24 percent of frequent moviegoers. Like Caucasians, African Americans undersampled, making up 12 percent of the population and 10 percent of frequent moviegoers.

Fithian noted that by 2050, Latinos will constitute one out of every three Americans.

"They have the most aggressive filmgoing rate," he said. "We're very encouraged by those demographic trends."

The report also shows:

>> The number of movies released in 2011 was up 7 percent in 2011, from 569 in 2010 to 610. 

>> In 2011, there were more than 39,600 screens in the U.S. Most of them — 80 percent — were at venues that had eight or more screens.

>> Domestic digital 3D screens increased from 994 in 2007 to 8,505 in 2010 to 13,695 in 2011.

>> Worldwide digital 3D screens increased from 1,297 in 2007 to 22,411 in 2010 to 35,479 in 2011.

>> More than two thirds of the U.S. and Canadian population went to the movies at least once in 2011, roughly the same as in 2010.

>> Frequent moviegoers — those who go to the movies at least once a month — bought 50 percent of all domestic tickets sold in 2011.

>> The 25-to-39 year-old demographic goes to the movies more than anyone else: Although they make up 21 percent of the popualation, they made up 28 percent of frequent moviegoers in 2011.

>> Per capita, Latinos go to the movies more than anyone else: averaging 5.3 movies per year in 2011 — down from 6.8 in 2010. Caucasians went to an average of 3.5 movies in 2011 and African Americans went to an average of 3.7.