2010 Box Office: More Record Revenue but Fewer Tickets Sold

U.S. distributors should break 2009 global sales record of $29.9B; domestic market up despite slight admissions drop

Last Updated: August 7, 2010 @ 6:31 PM

While some in the movie business are wringing their hands over the long-term of effects of skyrocketing ticket prices, the short-term effects are working out pretty well.

Coming off a record-breaking 2009, during which the MPAA says U.S. distributors took in a staggering $29.9 billion at theaters around the globe, American studios are once again poised to set brand-new marks at the box office … even though attendance has inched downward slightly.

Through Sunday, August 1, movie distributors cumulatively grossed just over $6.7 billion at the domestic box office, according to Hollywood.com, putting the industry about 4.7 percent ahead of where it was at the same point last year.

This increase comes despite the fact that ticket sales are down slightly, just under 1 percent, to 852.5 million units, with average ticket price increasing to $7.88 from $7.46 in 2009, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

The international market, which represented a record $19.3 billion haul for U.S. distributors last year, also looks poised to easily surpass its 2009 mark.

Disney, for example, has seen its foreign grosses swell to $1.7 billion through the first seven months of the year, buoyed by 3D films “Alice in Wonderland” ($690.1 in overseas ticket sales) and “Toy Story 3” ($436.4 million). That’s more than double the $744 million it had through August 1, 2009.

“As a studio, we just surpassed $1 billion (domestically) at the fastest rate in company history,” said Disney theatrical distribution chief Chuck Viane. “And internationally, we’ll pass $2 billion by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, driven by the record-breaking performance of "Avatar" earlier in the year, Fox is up 52 percent year to year in international gross to $2.21 billion through August 1.

Individual territories including China are booming, with that country’s aggregate box-office revenue rising 80 percent in the first quarter, according to Screen Daily.

In terms of individual studio market share, first place is a competitive proposition right now, particularly on the domestic side, with less than $140 million separating the top four studios.

Paramount, driven by its distribution arrangements with Marvel Entertainment (“Iron Man 2” brought in $311.6 million in the U.S. and Canada), as well as DreamWorks Animation (“How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After” have combined to gross more than $453 million domestically), currently leads the North American market with nearly $1.17 billion grossed through August 1, according to Box Office Mojo.

Fox is second in domestic market share, with $1.13 billion through August 1, a 29 percent year-to-year.  Warner Bros. ($1.07 million) and Disney ($1.02 billion) trail close behind.

Of course, market share and revenue are far from the only barometers of distributor health.

Revenue-wise, Sony is sitting in fifth place with $627.1 in cumulative North American totals through seven months, and will have to reach hard in order to match its 2009 revenue total of $1.46 billion.

But the studio is on a streak of consecutive money-makers in the last three months, with “The Karate Kid,” “Grown Ups,” “Salt” each opening to well over $30 million.

“We’ve had a terrific summer,” Sony Pictures worldwide distribution chief Rory Bruer recently told TheWrap.

Indeed, the industry as a whole has fared well during the big summer season, with the market up about 3.3 percent to $3.23 billion from May 7 to August 1, according to Hollywood.com — this, even though admissions are off nearly 2.2 percent.

And overall, while the year got a tremendous push out of the gate from “Avatar,” which grossed the bulk of its record $2.73 billion in January, it should close strong, with a November “Harry Potter” film headlining the up-and-coming events.

“We still have 'Secretariat,' 'You Again' and 'Tron: Legacy,'" Viane noted. “We’re looking forward to some very big things.”

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