MPAA chief Chris Dodd and NATO head John Fithian met with the press on a conference call Thursday as they revealed moviegoing stats for 2012.
"The last few years have brought a whirlwind of change and challenge," said Dodd. "We are adapting to make sure our consumers and moviegoers are coming back for more at cinemas and at home." The Senator went out of his way to embrace the idea that teen moviegoers, who are still down from 2009 and 2010 levels, are welcome to consume content in any way that they want.
Meanwhile Fithian, whose interest is in getting consumers back to theaters--so far box office is down 12% in 2013--emphasized that the growth in older moviegoers was compensating for the fickle younger demo. "If the industry is focused on teenagers we're never going to make it," he said. Studios take note.
He added that per capita the 25 to 39 and 40 to 49-year-old moviegoers were growing, which will be good for theaters, as people live longer. The other fastest-growing demo in the U.S. and among moviegoers is Hispanics, who comprise 1 out of 5 Americans. By 2050 it will be 1 out of 3.
The slate throughout the rest of the year is more promising than the first couple
months, Fithian said. And first quarter comparisons are thrown off by March 2012 release "Hunger Games," he said, "a $400-million picture that came out of nowhere. Comps for the next seasons will be strong."
For 2012, "both globally and domestically, we're up," said Dodd, "as were domestic admissions. The ticket price of $7.90 remains flat. Admissions have contributed significantly to the growth of box office receipts. We've seen a 6 % increase over 2011, with $34.7 billion globally, $10.8 billion domestic and $23.9 billion international, also a 6 % increase. Russia, Brazil and China ($2.7 billion, up 36%) show a significant increase for the last 12 months. 1.36 million people walked into a movie theater in the US market. Who goes frequently is up, 13% of the population go to theaters once a month. Between 4 and 500,000 monthly go to theaters, that's more than go to theme parks or sporting events. It's still popular to go out go to a theater in the U.S."
The studios made fewer 3-D movies, but they accounted for about the same percentage of the box office ($1.8 billion). Fithian said that both producers and exhibitors have learned which movies to make and how to show them, and that 3-D has stabilized. Fithian reminded the studios that when there's a wide range of choice and diversity in theaters, everyone benefits. 2012 showed that, but the first quarter of 2013 did not--there were too many R-rated violent movies and not enough family-friendly fare, he said.
Dodd addressed China in several ways, saying that while there were "bumps in the road" for the new number one foreign market--beating Japan for the first time-- such as booking three blockbusters against each other last summer, things are markedly improved. The U.S. has gone from showing 14 to 30 films a year in China, and the boost in China theater building--10 screens a day-- means that they want more product as well as more co-productions that can have access to the market as well.
On the technology front Dodd feels very strongly that legislation is not the way to broker a peace between content providers and Silicon Valley, who both need to find some common ground as Google and YouTube get into content and studios rely more than ever on the technology that drives a movie like "Life of Pi," he said.
"Technology or content, one can't win if the other side loses," he said. "No one wins if content fails or the internet is not free or open." For him the question is "how do we get the two communities to recognize they they are vital to each others success? Tech needs content and content needs technology."