CinemaCon: Who Says Teenagers Don't Go to the Movies?

Jurassic World Still 2 - H 2015
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Jurassic World Still 2 - H 2015

The age group seeing the biggest spike in terms of per capita movie attendance last year were those between the ages of 12 and 17, defying the perception that device-obsessed teenagers have little interest in going to the cinema.

The unlikely hero of the 2015 North American box office? Teenagers.

In 2015, 12- to 17-year-olds went to the movies more than any other age group on a per capita basis, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Motion Picture Association of America. This age group also saw the biggest year-over-year increase in terms of movie attendance, or nearly 1 percent.

“These numbers really jumped out at us," said National Association of Theatre Owners president-CEO John Fithian. "Kids want to be social and not just text each other across the dinner table. They want to go experience something together as a group. The idea that teenagers are buried at home and that our business is dying is not true." 

Fithian continued: "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."

The findings were part of a larger report revealing that the global box-office revenue reached a record $38.3 billion in 2015, including a best-ever $11.1 billion in North America.

Fithian went over the findings of the study with MPAA chairman Chris Dodd during a press conference with reporters.

On a per capita basis, the 12-17 age group went to the cinema 7.2 times on average in 2015, up from 6.5 times in 2013 and 6.2 times in 2012. Big draws included Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World.

"This is not something brand new. We've seen strong attendance in other years even with all the access to online content," noted Fithian.

Per capita attendance also increased among consumers between the ages of 25 and 39, and among people 60 and older. The one age group showing a decline in terms of per capita attendance was 18-24.

More than two-thirds of people living in the U.S. and Canada and over the age of 2 went to the movies at least once in 2015, a 2 percent jump. And the typical moviegoer bought 5.6 tickets on average, up from 5.5 in 2014.

Frequent moviegoers continue to drive admissions, making up 49 percent of all tickets sold in North America even though they only represent 10 percent of the population. However, the number of frequent moviegoers fell by 3.7 million people, even as the number of tickets bought by this sector increased by 2.9 million (a frequent moviegoer is considered someone who attends the cinema once a month or more).

The drop in frequent moviegoers fell across most age groups, but only nominally in the 12-17 bracket.