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LAS VEGAS — The number of African-Americans going to the movies increased significantly in 2013, representing the first spike since 2009, according to the MPAA’s report on moviegoing.
MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd and National Association of Theatre Owners chairman/president John Fithian attributed the jump to a diverse slate of films, including a proliferation of titles featuring African-American themes and stars, including Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave, and Kevin Hart comedies The Best Man Holiday and Black Nativity.
More than 170 million African-Americans took a trip to the cinema in 2013, a 13 percent gain compared to roughly 150 million in 2012.
Minorities overall made up a larger percentage of ticket buyers last year. Hispanics continue to make more trips to the theater than any other ethnic group, representing 25 percent of ticket buyers, although they only make up 17 percent of the population. African-Americans, who represent 12 percent of the population, purchased 13 percent of all tickets. Asian and other minorities, who make up 8 percent of the population, bought 8 percent of all tickets sold.
Caucasian’s bought only 54 percent of all tickets, even they make up 60 percent of the population. And frequent Caucasian moviegoers fell below 50 percent for the first time (a frequent moviegoer is defined as going to the movies more than once a month).
“Last year, I addressed the need to appeal to diverse audiences. Here again, we see progress. The year 2013 in the U.S. brought the highest-grossing Spanish-language movie of all time with Instructions Not Included. Perhaps even more telling, more movies in 2013 featured more black actors in important roles that drove more patrons to the theaters. That’s why we saw substantial growth in moviegoing for African-Americans and other minorities,” Fithian said during his annual speech at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where theater owners are holding their annual convention.
Later, Fithian revealed that 12 Years a Slave was so powerful that it was the only Oscar-nominated film he didn’t see on the big screen.
“It’s not that I didn’t consider the movie worthy of watching. Quite the contrary. 12 Years a Slave constitutes one of the most important movies of our generation. It’s simply that, for me, the movie was too unequivocally intense to watch in a cinema, so I waited and watched it at home,” Fithian said.
Minorities also drove big Hollywood tentpoles. According to the MPAA report, released at CinemaCon, only 50 percent of Man of Steel‘s audience was Caucasian, followed by Asian and other (18 percent), Hispanic (14 percent) and African-American (11 percent).
On a sobering note, the MPAA said that 32 percent of the population of North America didn’t go to the movies at all in 2013.
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