OVERSEAS ticket sales saved the day for Hollywood last year.
Worldwide box-office revenue grew 5% to $40.6 billion in 2017, even as movie-going slumped in the US and Canada, the largest market, according to a report Wednesday from the Motion Picture Association of America.
The worldwide figure was bolstered by globe-striding behemoths like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman.
The figures will be seen as a relief to executives anxious over a decline in foreign revenues in 2016, the first in more than decade, with US studios increasingly relying on the burgeoning middle class in developing economies.
“With more stories and more storytelling mediums than ever, our industry continues to adapt to an ever changing world,” said MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin.
“The global entertainment market is expanding on multiple fronts, constantly innovating to deliver an unparalleled experience to audiences worldwide.”
The data underscore the growing importance of international markets to US studios, with territories outside North America accounting for 73% of revenue and all of the growth, and the risks as trade disputes proliferate under President Donald Trump.
This week, Trump slapped tariffs on China for what he says is unfair competition, including theft of intellectual property. Major studios have worked for years to get more of their movies released in China, the No. 2 market, and are in talks to improve the expanded access they gained in a 2012 memorandum of understanding.
“We have ongoing negotiations that are happening as we speak and we are hopeful they will have a positive outcome,” said Mr. Rivkin on a call with journalists. The US trade representative is taking the lead in negotiations, he said, and so “we remain hopeful.”
China’s 21% increase in movie ticket sales, to $7.9 billion, was a driver of global growth while Latin American, another target of Trump’s ire, was another bright spot, up 22%, according to the MPAA.
The US and Canada generated $11.1 billion, down 2% from the previous year, with Hispanic and Asian movie fans being the greatest per-capita consumers of Hollywood fare.
The global box-office record was driven by a 7% increase in international markets ($29.5 billion), in large part due to a resumption of growth in China, which had slowed in 2015.
Japan, Britain, India, and South Korea rounded out the top five international markets after China.
Globally consumer spending on home entertainment, digitally and on disc, rose 11% to $47.8 billion. US digital spending, which includes electronic sales, video-on-demand, and subscription streaming, rose 20%. International digital spending was up 41%, the MPAA said.
While home viewing has grown, cinemas remain the biggest revenue source for feature films, John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, said on the call.
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., the largest theater chain, announced a deal Wednesday to open as many as 100 locations in Saudi Arabia, obtaining the first cinema license in that country. Fithian predicted the market would grow rapidly. (Hollywood reaps dividends from Saudi Prince’s US tour)
“Four or five other of our members” are ready to open theaters in Saudi Arabia, he said of the country, which boasts a young population with considerable disposable income. “It is exactly the type of market you want for movies and movie theaters.” — Bloomberg/AFP