Worldwide movie box-office receipts rise in 2010

Movie ticket sales may have been flat in the U.S. and Canada last year, but Hollywood’s international cinema business soared to new heights in 2010.

Global box-office receipts for all films released last year reached a high of $31.8 billion, an increase of 8% over 2009, according to a newly released report from the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The theatrical market statistics report, which the MPAA conducts annually, found that though ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada remained unchanged at $10.6 billion, overseas revenue jumped 13% in 2010 compared with 2009.

The largest growth occurred in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region, which grew 25% and 21%, respectively, and accounted for $10.8 billion in box-office revenue. It marked the first time that Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which generated a combined $10.4 billion in box-office revenue, accounted for less than half of all international ticket sales.


China accounted for more than 40% of the Asia Pacific box office, though it remains a “highly restrictive market for foreign film distribution,” the report notes.

“Despite a weak economy, shifting business models and the ongoing impact of digital theft, we had another record year at the box office driven by growth outside of the U.S. and Canada,” said Bob Pisano, president and interim chief executive of the MPAA.

Although the number of people who saw movies was up 3% last year at 223 million, each person saw fewer movies on average — six in 2010 compared with 6.5 the previous year. As a result, the total number of tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada dropped 5% to 1.34 billion, returning to the 2008 level.

In a news conference Wednesday, Pisano expressed concern about a steady decline in tickets sold over much of the last decade. “I’m not sure why that’s the case,” he said. “One of the challenges facing the industry is to see what can be done about reversing that and getting more Americans and Canadians back to the movie theaters.”


Various reasons have been cited for the slowdown, including the fact that consumers have far more entertainment options, such as video games, the Internet and the ability to watch movies on large screen televisions in the comfort of their own living rooms.

Nonetheless, John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, said the industry was in good shape. “We are concerned about the admissions numbers, but revenues are what makes the industry whole and that has been very strong,” he said.

Nationally, the average ticket price, including matinees and child tickets, was $7.89 in 2010, up from $7.50.

The survey also provided the clearest indication yet of the effect of premium-priced 3-D movie tickets on box-office receipts. Movies in 3-D accounted for 21%, or $2.2 billion, of the total, nearly doubling 2009’s level. One in three people in the U.S. and Canada saw a movie in 3-D in 2010.


Revenue from 2-D movies dropped 11% in 2011 to $8.4 billion.

Although the number of screens worldwide remain unchanged at about 150,000, the proportion of digital screens increased dramatically, with one-quarter of all screens now digital.