With less than three weeks before CinemaCon (still scheduled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, at this writing), the Motion Picture Association released its 2019 annual report with results that show overall growth — but it’s streaming that leads the way, not theaters. Home/mobile entertainment grew by 14 percent, a figure that MPA chairman and CEO Charles H. Rivkin described as “astonishing” in his opening letter. (Remember: MPA only started tracking streaming in 2017.)
It’s clear that MPA membership — the five major studios, plus Netflix — regard streaming as critical in getting their product to paying customers. It’s also clear that the MPA (no more MPAA, having dropped the “of America”) is eager to brand itself as a global organization more than a domestic one, especially when its strongest theatrical story only comes when it considers the world.
Unlike recent years, the MPA press release made no reference to a coordinating teleconference call or Cinemacon press event with the National Association of Theater Owners. However, an MPA source says that they continue to coordinate with NATO on this report and have no plans to discontinue the practice of holding annual joint press conferences. NATO represents some 33,000 movie screens in the United States as well as cinemas in 100 countries — none of which stand to benefit from the nontheatrical revenue that’s driving MPA members’ growth.
All told, the 2019 global total is $101 billion, up 8 percent over 2017’s $93.5 billion. However, 58.3 percent of that revenue came from non-theatrical showings — a year-over-year increase of about 8.8 percent. That means theaters worldwide were responsible for less than one percent of that growth, or about $400 million.
When the MPA began tracking nontheatrical revenue three years ago, it already outstripped theatrical by 17.7 percent — $47.8 million vs. $40.6 million. In 2018, that spread doubled to $55.7 billion vs. $41.1 billion. In 2019, it’s $58.8 billion vs. $42.2 billion.
North American box office fell four percent in 2019, while international rose three percent. For the first time, the three biggest territories outside the U.S./Canada were Asian: China at $9.3 billion, Japan $2.4 billion, and South Korea now fourth at $1.6 billion. The U.K. (which, for statistical purposes, includes Ireland) fell to fifth. China’s growth slowed, but still rose four percent.
As always, the report is full of fascinating statistics. Annual attendance among domestic moviegoers fell from five visits to 4.7, with age groups of 12-17 at the high end (4.9), and Latino communities lead all ethnic groups. However, it’s clear that the MPA knows its membership makes most of their money outside domestic theater ticket sales. Of that $101 billion total in global entertainment revenue, North American box office comprised 11.3 percent, down from 12 percent.
According to the report, there were 864 million online video service subscribers in 2019, a whopping 28 percent jump over the prior year. However, at $116 billion, cable television remains the biggest pay television market.
This is the third year for the MPA’s Theatrical and Home Entertainment Market Environment (aka THEME), which presents both theatrical and nontheatrical statistics. Prior to that, their report was simply Theatrical Market Statistics. In the 2016 report, then-MPAA chairman and CEO Christopher Dodd said, “Even with an incredible variety of viewing choices available to audiences, cinema remains the premier way to experience the magic of our movies. And the good news is, there are positive signs for greater growth in the future.”
This year, Rivkin, who launched the THEME report, highlighted streaming as a centerpiece in the MPA membership’s future: “Streaming, which was once only a small part of our business, is without a doubt an increasingly large part of our industry’s bright future. New streaming services were launched last year, with more on the way. The data confirms our commitment to providing content where, when, and on any device audiences want. Our survey showed that 85 percent of children and more than 55 percent of adults in the U.S. watch movies and/or TV shows on their mobile device.”