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MPAA Report: Asian and Latino Audiences Love Movies Most, but North American Moviegoing Is in Decline

The MPAA annual report showed Americans now spend 49 percent of their media time on a digital platform.

MPAA Charles Rivkin, U.S. Ambassador to FranceVarious Personalities

Charles Rivkin, current MPAA head and former U.S. Ambassador to France

Jaime Abecasis/REX/Shutterstock

New MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin presented his first annual report, and it’s already changed the game. Online polling, a first for the report, revealed that the Asian demographic is among the most-frequent moviegoers, with an American audience that’s going to fewer movies and is glued to their phones: According to the MPAA, Americans now spend 49 percent of their media time on a digital platform.

“The entertainment market is strong, it’s vibrant and increasing on many fronts,” said Rivkin in a teleconference call. “On a global level, we are seeing tremendous growth.”

However, the numbers also reveal a North American audience that is increasingly distracted from the more-analog entertainment platforms. Domestic box office and admissions were down in 2017, while online subscriptions to platforms like Netflix continue to skyrocket. “It takes good movies and good movie theaters to make this business happen,” said NATO president John Fithian, who stressed a “stable” and “lucrative” North American market notching $11 billion three years in a row.

Among the highlights of the report:

  • Global box office is up, while North America is a “mature” market. Worldwide box office was $40.6 billion in 2017, representing a five percent increase from 2016. International growth was up seven percent, to $29.5 billion, while North American grosses declined slightly from $11.4 billion to $11.1 billion, down 2.63 percent.
  • More than three-fourths of the North American population, or 263 million people, attended a movie in 2017, with an even split between men and women. Teenagers were the most significant demographic: 12-17 year-olds attended an average of 4.9 movies. But among frequent moviegoers, that demo is down to 13 percent, followed by 18-24 with 12 percent. The older 25-39 group is a more robust 26 percent.
  • Global consumers increased home entertainment spending by 11 percent, to $47.8 billion. In the U.S., the home entertainment market increased five percent to $20.5 billion.
  • Online video subscription services worldwide continued to grow, increasing 33 percent, while cable subscriptions declined for the second straight year. However, cable remains the highest-revenue video platform with an increase of $1.1 billion to $108 billion.

Fithian compared the size of the North American market, which marks five percent of the global population, but is the largest global market producing 30 percent of worldwide theatrical revenues. “If you compare screen count in each region,” he said, “in the U.S. and Canada each screen grossed about 257,000 a year vs. Europe at 242,000 and the Asia Pacific region at 216,000.”

Rivkin pointed out that China “will be be largest in market in world in short order,” he said. “They are building 25 high quality screens a day.” When asked about the trade rift between the U.S. and China, he said “negotiations between the MPAA and producers in the theatrical industry are ongoing.”

Fithian remains unconcerned about a pattern of decreasing North American admissions. “If we look at the plethora of choices out there for entertainment time and eyeballs, there are a lot of media,” he said. “We have seen a substantial decline in numbers because there are more diverse ways to enjoy entertainment. Theatrical stability is a good sign of continued stability. We are businesspeople: is this profitable? Growth in box office is more important than growth in admissions.”

While it may seem “oxymoronic” for the head of NATO to champion the MPAA report’s home entertainment numbers, Fithian said, “people who love movies love them everywhere. People are watching more movies in the home. The growth of the market in the home is coupled with theatrical. We want our partners to make more money in the home, so that they will be able to make more product for us in theatrical.”

As for the burgeoning home entertainment numbers, he claimed that “movies released theatrically make more money theatrically than the same movies do in the home. Theatrical remains the engine that drives the train.”

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