Box office revenue reached a staggering $2.7 billion in China in 2012, even more than expected and up 37 percent year over year.
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Supplanting Japan, China is now the largest moviegoing market outside of North America, where the box office generated $10.8 billion in revenue in 2012. The figures were revealed in the Motion Picture Association of America’s annual report on theatrical statistics, which was released Thursday.
The sweeping report showed global box office revenue hitting $34.7 billion in 2012, up 6 percent from the previous year due to a growth spurt both internationally — where revenue reached $23.9 billion — and in North America. Overseas, all regions except for Europe enjoyed gains.
"It was a great year for movies," MPAA chairman and CEO Christopher Dodd said during a news conference.
Dodd and National Association of Theatre Owners chairman-CEO John Fithian didn’t try to sugarcoat the box office downturn that has hit the industry in 2013.
"The diversity of the movie slate in the first quarter of 2013 just wasn’t there. There were a lot of R-rated movies that were violent. These movies can sell, but not when that’s all you have to offer," Fithian said. "The diversity of movies in 2012 was extraordinarily strong, and it’s that kind of slate that drives the kinds of numbers you saw."
Until the MPAA’s report came out, Chinese box office revenue for 2012 was estimated to be roughly $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion, which would have put it on par with Japan, if not slightly behind.
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According to the MPAA report, revenue in Japan totaled $2.4 billion in 2012, followed by the U.K. and France ($1.7 billion each), India ($1.4 billion), Germany and South Korea ($1.3 billion each), Russia and Australia ($1.2 billion each) and Brazil ($800 million).
Brazil, Russia, India and China — known as the BRIC countries — are considered hotbeds for moviegoing.
"China is building something like 10 screens a day. There is a voracious appetite for product," Dodd said.
Overall, the international box office in 2012 was up 32 percent from five years ago.
Four films released in 2012 crossed $1 billion in global sales; ($1.51 billion), ($1.11 billion), ($1.08 billion) and ($1.01 billion).
In terms of North America, the MPAA report confirmed a notable uptick in the number of adults going to the movies. In the 40-49 age group alone, there were 5.8 million frequent moviegoers, compared to 3.3 million in 2011.
Hispanics also remained avid moviegoers in 2012, making more trips to the multiplex than any other ethnicity in comparison to their percentage of the total population.
Fithian said frequent moviegoing grew across all demos, a promising sign. However, the industry also faces a challenge in convincing people who don’t go to the movies to make the trip to the multiplex.
Domestic ticket sales in 2012 continued to be driven by frequent moviegoers (those who go to the cinema once a month or more). In 2012, frequent moviegoers represented 13 percent of the population and bought 57 percent of all movie tickets sold, a increase of 7 percent from the previous year.
With some consumers souring on 3D, there were fewer 3D titles released in 2012. Revenue from 3D remained the same, however, underscoring that it remains a viable format.