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MPAA Data Shows Women and Men Each Buy Half the Movie Tickets Sold

by Melissa Silverstein
March 23, 2012 10:25 AM
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For the second year in a row the MPAA has released data showing that men and women each buy half the tickets to movies.  (Here's the post of the 2010 stats.)  Two years ago women bought more than half the tickets. 

That's all tickets. 

But still movies are not made for women.  Here's my imaginary theory of how these numbers get analyzed by the powers that be: well women go see the boy movies and the boys won't go see the girl movies (which will be disproved after this weekend) so let's just keep things as things are because hey we're making a shit ton of money (even though attendance is down) and people are lapping up this crap. 

Here is some of the other data from the MPAA's 2011 Theatrical Statistics Summary

  • It is really all about the global market.  Global box office was up 3% to $32.6 billion, and domestic (Canadian box office is included in all the domestic stats) was down 4% to 10.2 billion.  Global box office makes up 69% of the business.
  • 67% -- 221 million  -- of the population went to the movies at least once last year.
  • Frequent moviegoers (ones who go at least once a month) are the bread and butter of the business.  They are only 10% of the population but buy 50% of the tickets.  Older folks are starting to go more frequently and the business shed about 1 million younger moviegoers.
  • Average ticket price - $7.93
  • There are 39,600 screens.  80% of them are in multiplexes with 8 screens or more.
  • 25-39 year olds bought the largest amount of tickets - 24%.  18-24 year olds bought 17% of the tickets.

You can read the full report here.

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More: Statistics, Box Office

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  • Bes | April 1, 2012 12:14 PMReply

    There are so few movies that I will pay and spend time to see that I don't even have people whom I go to movies with anymore. I have friends I cook with, work out with, shop with, go to coffee with, discuss reading with knit with and just get together with but no real movie friends because I just don't go to the movies often since they are so lame. I see my local art museum is having a film series from before 1940 and I'm thinking of buying tickets to that since women were better represented in old films. I don't know when or how or why women characters got so distorted by Hollywood, it certainly hasn't helped their profits.

  • Cynthia | March 31, 2012 6:34 PMReply

    I disagree that it's all about money. Sure, money is important in the movie business, but money is not the only thing that fuels it. Why else would the CEO of General Electric buy Universal Studios? Movie studios, without the protection of a well-funded international, diverse comglomerate like GE, are at risk when huge movies fail (think Heaven's Gate). It made sense for Universal Studios to merge with GE; but, why would GE merge with Universal? Well, what about the glamour of the movie business? What about the prestige of middle aged executives sporting a few young starlets on their arms? The male vanity of business executives plays a role, as does the lack of imagination on the part of mostly male directors, producers, and screenwriters, who seem to be incapable of or not interested in writing scenes in which women relate to one another without focusing on the male lead in the film.

    We women, are to blame as well, of course. We continually watch movies with only one or two very attractive and scantily clad young women in them who have no other purpose than to bolster the cool dominance of the male lead. We also, for the most part, don't seem to be all that interested in financing, producing, directing, or scriptwriting movies that explore women's stories. That's changing a little. The San Francisco Women's International Film Festival exhibits films directed by women. But, even that is not enough to ensure that stories about women are made. For instance, the recent films of two of the most influential women directors, Kathryn Bigelow and Agneska Holland, were, mainly, stories about men. Bigelow's wonderful "Hurt Locker" was a character study about a man during wartime and his relationship to his wartime buddies (there may have been only one woman in the entire film-the main character's wife); Holland's wrenching "In Darkness" was a character study of a Polish sewer worker, a man, during the Nazi's attack on the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto during world war II.

    I completely disagree with the idea that women should only attend women-centric movies or movies that pass the Bechdel test (for one thing, women would go to the movies but rarely). I do believe, however, in avoiding "Dick Flicks," movies which have the following characteristics:
    ~An archetypal male lead, anywhere from 18 - 55 years old, is at the center (no matter how handsome), who is uniformally brave, cool, unemotional; AND...
    ~Fast paced and loud action, violence and special effects seem to be the main focus of the film; AND...
    ~Film characters are poorly or shallowly drawn; AND...
    ~Female presence in the film consists of one or two very scantily clad and beautiful young women who are focused on the male lead.
    ~Young men (between two to five characters), usually portrayed as losers, are the main leads; AND...
    ~Humor, focusing on slap stick, cruelty, scatology, and sexual imagery and references is a main component of the movie; AND...
    ~Film characters are poorly or shallowly drawn; AND...
    ~Female presence in the film consists of one or two very scantily clad and beautiful young women who, initially are contempuous of our main leads, but eventually come around due to a character's intelligence or character.

    Nope. No more "Dick Flicks for me, but that doesn't mean we women should avoid thoughtful movies that explore male character, relationships or power. In fact, my two favorite movies last year, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "Beginners," did just that. We should, however, urge studios to produce more films that explore female character, relationships and power.

  • budmin | April 1, 2012 2:10 PM

    -We should, however, urge studios to produce more films that explore female character, relationships and power.

    That's going to be rather difficult considering female agency is such a closeted phobia.
    Can we ever truly root for a protagonist capable of using the entire spectrum of female privilege & cultural amore to solve violent conflicts?
    Are we harder on social climbing Women then we are on Men?

    Look at all the hate that was foisted on Margaret Thatcher or Lisbeth Salander? Think of all the different groups of people who loathe "The Help" referring to it as "Segregation in The City" & don't even get me started on Bella Swan's uncanny ability to unite Feminist, and Men's Rights Activist alike under a collective banner of disapproval.

    Female lead movies aren't only criticized, they're condemned.

  • Noticed | March 25, 2012 12:31 AMReply

    I am a 31 year old woman who rarely goes to movies. I only watch films that pass the Bechdel test and I seek out women-centered movies and shows as often as possible. I went to see The Hunger Games Thursday at midnight and just went a second time today (Saturday).

    I agree it's all about money. If Hollywood made movies I wanted to see, they'd get more of my money. Period.

  • Kathy | March 24, 2012 3:04 AMReply

    Some of the most boring movies in the world are action movies. I have fallen asleep during banal car chases.

  • Kathy | March 24, 2012 3:02 AMReply

    Yes Matt and that is exactly why I have decided to just go to movies with strong female leads. I know that Hollywood understands only one thing: MONEY. And that is why I will boycott male-centric films until we get a consistent 50/50 gender balance. I know that one person can not change the system, but I will make damn sure the system doesn't change me.

  • Frankie | March 26, 2012 10:52 AM

    And so it is confirmed, a bully once confronted, will suck his thumb, head home, and say, "Stop picking on me." Go home, bully, go home.

  • Bigger Brother | March 26, 2012 4:55 AM

    And so it is confirmed that when faced with logic, truth and reason, personal abuse is the only retort the feminist has left. My work here is done.

  • Frankie | March 25, 2012 11:46 PM

    You are pathetic and tiresome, Bigger Brother. Go rant on someone else's site. I see you have just learned the word misandry. Congrats. Let's see how many more times you can use it or a derivative (misandrists, wow... nice) today. Rush would be proud.

  • Bigger Brother | March 25, 2012 7:01 AM

    "Cowardly anonymous pseudonym"? What? You mean like almost EVERYONE else here? And 'Frankie', you are just as anonymous as I am!! Now, what's this nonsense about attacking women? If countering misandry, highlighting double standards, dispelling lies with some truth is attacking women then really you should .... well, you mentioned the "thick skin"! You can't post anti-male sentiments in a public forum then expect them to remain unchallenged. Unless you believe that feminism & misandry are above criticism.

  • Frankie | March 25, 2012 6:15 AM

    Dude, "Bigger Brother," if you have such a thick skin than why do you blog under a cowardly anonymous pseudonym? Are you so insecure that you need to come over to this blog and attack women for stating their opinions. Wow. You are so tough. I am so impressed.

  • Bigger Brother | March 25, 2012 5:20 AM

    No "privilege" here. Just initiative, persistence, dedication and hard work. It was my male colleagues and I who were there working 18 hours a day - sometimes longer - to solve problems and meet deadlines. Not a woman to be seen, all having made their excuses and left hours earlier. You're right, they didn't matter and still don't. As for perspective, if I want a different perspective I'll ASK somebody. My own perspective has served me well over a long career in the film business so why would I change it? I'll make damn sure that feminist whining doesn't change me.

  • Noticed | March 25, 2012 12:34 AM

    I'm with you Kathy.

    It truly amazes me how difficult it is for some men to see the world from a different perspective. I suppose if you've never acknowledged your privilege, you can't understand what it feels like to be told by an entire industry that you don't matter. Using our buying power as women is the best way we can send a message that we expect more.

  • Bigger Brother | March 24, 2012 11:03 PM

    Ouch! That's really gonna hurt the big studios. They're not gonna take this lying down: "Quick guys, sign up as many female writers, directors, producers and actors as we can 'cause Kathy's gonna boycott us otherwise!" Poor Kathy, are you so insecure in your own skin that you need FICTIONAL portrayals of strong women to feel better about yourself? I have never heard a man say that he would only watch movies with strong MALE leads. That would be stupid and he would be denying himself the joy of seeing great performances from people like Cate Blanchett.

  • Matt M | March 23, 2012 1:43 PMReply

    I am a man. I will go to action movies. I will not go to boring movies. If I'm paying a fortune to see something in the theater I don't want a story, I want as many explosions as my brain can handle. If I want a high quality movie with a story I will stay home and rent it as there is no benefit to the larger screen, louder sound (and 3D), the power is in the story.

    What do you mean by "which will be disproved after this weekend"? Is there some movie coming out this weekend that is a woman's movie?

    Also, your imaginary statement is not imaginary. Studios don't release movies because they want to tell a story, they release movies to make money. They do research to see what will get the most people watching and they release movies along those lines because that will bring in the money. This is not your imagination, this is the truth. A director might make a movie for the story but that does not mean that the studios will push it if it is not one that will make them boat loads of money.

    When it comes to the media, money is the driver, 100%. No one cares if anyone is red, green, blue, male, female, shemale, purple or orange, they care about how much money they can make and how many more ferrari's they can park in the garage. There is no one saying "Lets hurt women by not doing X". There are people saying "This movie is slow and won't attract male viewers meaning it will only make half the potential money so lets take this other movie that will bring in both males and females as that will make us more money".

    It's ALL about money and execs care about nothing else.

  • Cynthia | March 31, 2012 6:50 PM

    "It's ALL about money and execs care about nothing else." Which is a fallacy. As I mentioned above, of course, money is probably the main driver, but it is not the only driver of what appears on film. Movie business executives have ego, vanity, histories...even (in VERY rare cases) values. Sometimes what appears on screen is a reflection of that, regardless of what systematic analysis of what made the last 10 films successful told them.

    I will continue to go to intelligent, creative, thoughtful movies with good acting and storytelling, even if they are male-centric. But, if a movie is intelligent, thoughtful, creative with good acting and storytelling, and female-centic, I will definitely go out of my way to watch it.

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