CinemaCon: Global Box-Office Revenue Hit Record $38.3B in 2015

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' 'Jurassic World'

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd and NATO president John Fithian say diverse audiences, China and teenagers helped fuel the boom, along with preserving theatrical windows.

Worldwide box-office revenue clocked in at a record $38.3 billion in 2015, up more than 6 percent over 2014.

The figure was revealed Tuesday during the State of the Industry Address at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theater owners in Las Vegas. MPAA chairman Chris Dodd shared the stage with John Fithian, president-CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, host of the four-day convention, to talk about the underlying reasons for the growth.

In his remarks, Dodd said the numbers prove that the international box office, which turned in a record $27.2 billion in 2015, is only gaining in importance. As previously reported, the box office in North America made a recovery last year as revenue hit $11.1 billion, a milestone.

Dodd, delivering his fifth speech at CinemaCon, was loudly booed by at least one member of the audience as he approached the podium. Minutes later, he received a resounding round of applause, however, when denouncing any attempts to collapse windows.

"This year I’m proud to stay that the state of our industry is not only strong but it has never been stronger. 2015 was a great year for the global film community," said Dodd, adding China will eclipse North America to become the "world's largest film market in the next several years."

For his part, Fithian said it might surprise some to know that teenagers helped drive the boom. "Indeed, my 13-year-old daughter told me last week that she strongly prefers to watch video content on her iPad because it is mobile and private, and because she controls it. She rarely watches television. But she still goes to the movies, and that reflects her age demographic," he said.

"Teenagers remain the strongest segment of moviegoers. Last year per capita ticket sales for Americans aged 12 to 17 was 7.3, with the highest growth rate of any age demographic. That demographic represents only 8 percent of the U.S. population, but a stellar 16 percent share of movie tickets purchased. Teenagers constitute not only our most frequent guests, but they are also the highest spenders. Teenagers have the highest rate of support for 3D and premium large-format screens," said Fithian. "The small screens of television may hold less appeal for teenagers, but the big screens of cinema, and the personal screens of hand-held devices, can co-exist quite well."

Fithian and Dodd also cited diverse audiences and the preservation of theatrical windows as key reasons for the growth.

"A second bright sign for the future is that diverse audiences around the globe are making their voices heard," said Fithian. "Historically, three of the biggest cinema markets were the United States, Europe, and Australia. And in the old days those territories weren’t nearly as diverse as they are today. Now, the overseas theatrical markets with the fastest growth rates are found in Asia and Latin America. And here in the U.S., Hispanics have the highest rate of cinema visits." 

He continued: "No doubt the construction of state-of-the-art cinemas in all cultures and neighborhoods has enabled this growth. And there is another factor as well. The more that movie casting looks like the world, the more the world goes to the movies. Consider these demographics on U.S. ticket sales for Furious 7 compared to the other biggest blockbusters of last year. In the U.S., a majority-Caucasian country, white folks accounted for only 40 percent of the tickets sold for the movie. And globally the diverse cast of that franchise has helped to drive record sales. At CinemaCon we champion the diversity of our industry, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because diversity matters for business."

Added Dodd: "One issue that our country continues to face is the need to do a better job reflecting and cultivating diversity. This industry is taking healthy productive steps to address the issues of diversity."

On the matter of windows, Fithian said: "My third reason for sustained strength in the theatrical market has been the subject of some news lately, but for all the wrong reasons. At NATO we continue to believe that exclusive theatrical release windows drive success in theatrical markets and in ancillary movie markets as well. Exclusive theatrical windows make new movies into events. Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets."

Preservation of theatrical windows remain the "highest priority" for NATO, he said. The theater chief didn't mention Sean Parker's proposed in-home movie venture, the Screening Room, by name, but it was clear he was referring to the controversial plan.

Fithian said he believes international revenue would have hit $40 billion had it not been for local currency devaluations. "The global exhibition haul of $38.3 billion would have likely exceeded $40 billion had it not been for weak currencies in key markets. Admissions numbers tell the real story overseas. Ticket sales soared by an astounding 51.2 percent in China, 14.7 percent in Mexico, 14.3 percent in Germany, 7.8 percent in Spain and 7.4 percent in Brazil," he said.

The box office in China, the world's second-largest moviegoing market, grew an astonishing 48.7 percent, reaching a record $6.78 billion.