Yesterday, the Motion Picture Association of America released their report of the 2014 box office numbers. Globally, they increased by about 1% from 2013’s box office. Yet, the US total gross was considerably less than 2013 and years before. The Hollywood Reporter published an article, stating 5 worrying trends in American movie-going. I thought I’d add my own thoughts on this as well.
First off, I’m going to put things into perspective. In 2013, billions of dollars were made from ticket purchases. Last year, billions of dollars were made again. Yes, there are trends to observe year to year, but there are always billions of dollars being made. Studios are still making money, and as long as they keep on making good movies, we’ll continue giving them money. That being said, let’s talk about this.
Here are the 5 worrisome trends from THR:
1. The 32 percent problem
Admissions hit a 19-year low in North America, with 1.27 billion tickets sold. Part of the problem: 32 percent of the population in North America and Canada didn’t go to the movies at all. The same has been true for several years, but it’s clear Hollywood needs to cull a new audience. According to the MPAA, there was actually a jump in the number of frequent moviegoers buying tickets (fueled largely by older consumers), so that means fewer “occasional” and “infrequent” moviegoers went to the cinema in 2014.
This makes sense to me. 2014 lacked the BIG blockbusters. Transformers 4, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Hunger Games, and technically American Sniper all did well, but none of them were groundbreaking in reference to their box office performance. No one went out of their way to see these. However, there was an increase in the number of frequent moviegoers. I would put myself into that category. I went to the movies a lot the last few months of 2014. I saw movies like Guardians and Birdman multiple times. There were a lot of good “Oscar movies” that these people went to see as well.
2. Where were the tots?
Frequent moviegoers, defined as someone who goes to the cinema at least once a month or more, are Hollywood’s most prized demo. This group makes up only 11 percent of the population but buy 51 percent of all tickets sold. In 2014, there was a steep fall off in the 2-11 age group, with only 2.7 million young children going to the movies, compared to 4.3 million the year before.
I remember going to a theater this summer, and a hearing a large group of kids screaming about Ninja Turtles. I guess that didn’t happen that much this year. I am clearly not in that demographic, but I did not notice many kid movies last year. Or maybe they all had something better to do, I’m not really sure.
3. The Trouble with Generations X, Y and Z
There was also a precipitous drop off in the number of frequent moviegoers between the ages of 25 to 39 (including parents of the missing tots). Those in this category made 7.1 million trips to the cinema, compared to 8.2 million in 2013 and 9.9 million in 2012. It matters because, overall, this age group watches more movies than any other. There was also a continued fall off in the number of frequent moviegoers in the 18-24 age group. This demo went to the movies 7 million times, the lowest level in at least five years. Conversely, frequent moviegoers in the 40-49 age group soared, from 3.2 million to 5.7 million, while frequent moviegoers 60 and older hit an all time high, making 5.3 million trips.
This goes back to what I talked about before. No one went to great lengths to see movies last year. There were no big blockbusters last year, and people just weren’t interested in going to the movies. I found it really interesting how the older movie goers went to theaters more than years before. I’m trying to think of the movies they would have seen. Maybe the historical dramas like The Imitation Game and Selma attracted them.
4. 3D Burnout
In 2010, 52 percent of moviegoers in North America saw a 3D title. Last year, that number fell by almost half to 27 percent, even though there were more 3D titles more than ever (47). In 2013, 31 percent of those going to the cinema saw a 3D title.
This stat does not worry me. It seems that after Avatar, every other movie was in 3D. The only movies of the last few years that actually benefited from 3D were Life Of Pi and Avatar. I think people are tired of all the 3D movies too, because it’s more money to get the same experience you’d get in 2D. I was surprised it was such a big drop from 2013 even with more 3D films being made. Hopefully there will be less this year, and the ones that are 3D will be worth the extra money.
5. The gender balance
Since 2010, females have consistently made up a larger share of moviegoers, while the number of males has remained flat.
I was not aware of this. I suppose there are generally more chick flicks than than “guy flicks” being made. I’ve never noticed more women than men when I go to the movies, but I guess there are. How do they know that for sure though? I’ve never worked at a theater, but when I go to see a movie, I just say I want a ticket and they give me one. When that stat gets recorded, how do they know I’m a male? Online sales may require you to enter your gender, but at the box office, I don’t know how they do that.
Those are my thoughts on 2014’s box office numbers, and THR’s five worries about them. I do not believe people don’t want to see as much movies anymore. Less people went to them last year, but there weren’t a lot that warranted huge money gains. And these movies have to be good too. The opening weekend for Transformers 4 proved lots of people want to see transformers on the big screen. But it dropped steeply because it wasn’t good. Even the most hard core fan isn’t going to see that movie again if it sucks.
I don’t think I will be talking about this next year. 2015 is going to have Avengers, Fast 7, Mission Impossible, Jurassic World, AND Star Wars. Domestic and global numbers are going to be sky high. Make good movies and people will see them. It’s that simple. It is a win win situation when Episode 7 is unbelievable, and Disney makes money off of it.
http://thr.com/node/780787 via @THR