Global box office in 2012 climbed 6% on the previous year to reach a record $34.7bn as international gross receipts accounted for 69% of the pie, gaining 6% on 2011 levels to finish on an unprecedented $23.9bn.

China was the key international driver, propelling box office to $2.7bn in a 36% year-on-year boom that saw it cement its position as the second largest market behind North America, according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2012 issued on Thursday [21].

The march of China relegated Japan to third place on $2.4bn, followed by the UK and France tied in fourth on $1.7bn apiece. India ranks fifth on $1.4bn and indeed all the BRIC countries rank in the top 10. Russia places eighth on $1.2m and Brazil tenth on $800m.

North American box office gained 6% on 2011 to finish on a record $10.8bn. Powering the result was a 6% rise in theatrical admissions to 1.36bn. 3D box office was comparable to 2011 levels at $1.8bn despite fewer 3D film releases. Overall the average North American ticket price went up by a negligible amount from $7.93 in 2011 to $7.96.

MPAA chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd said the report’s findings were “a powerful reminder” of the cultural and economic impact of films. He added: “Our industry supports 2.1m jobs in the United States and more than 120,000 of those jobs are in movie theatres.”

“The cinema industry serves an increasingly diverse audience, by age, gender and ethnicity,” said National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian. “The record box office, here and abroad, shows that when we meet that diversity with a broad range of movies and amenities, cutting edge technologies and viewing options our industry thrives.”

International regions

Turning back to the international picture, Asia Pacific was the most improved region thanks to a 15% surge against 2011 from $9bn to $10.4bn.

While Europe, Middle East & Africa still recorded the highest total on $10.7bn, this figure marked a 1% drop compared to $10.8m from the year before due to a decline in Italy and Spain.

Latin America gained 6% from $2.6bn to $2.8bn.

Global screen count

Cinema screens increased 5% worldwide in 2012 as the total amounted to 129,866.

Digital expansion grew 41% to the point where more than two-thirds of global screens are digital. 2012 became the first year when international analogue screen share entered the minority.

The 3D digital proportion of total screens climbed from 29% in 2011 to 35% in 2012.

North American demographics

The report also highlight demographic changes in North American cinema attendance.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the population over the age of two, in other words 225m people, went to the cinema at least once in 2012. The typical film-goer bought six tickets, up from 5.8 in 2011.

So-called frequent film-goers who buy tickets more than once a month accounted for 13% of the population and purchased 57% of all tickets sold. The 25-39 demographic represented the largest portion of frequent film-goers at 9.9m, up from 9.7m the year before.

The biggest climb in the frequent film-goer category came from the 40-49 bracket, which surged from 3.3m to 5.8m. The over 60 crowd, which has been of great interest to studios in light of the success of films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, increased from 4.1m to 4.6m.

Caucasians remain the biggest ethnic representative of frequent film-goers on 23.2m up from 19.5m in 2011, however Hispanics continue to ‘oversample’ given their relatively small proportion of the overall population and climbed from 8.4m to 10.9m.

The female contingent has also been a popular talking point over the past several years and the report showed continued female-on-male growth among film-goers in a trend that began in 2009. In 2012 there was a 1% climb among females to 52% of overall attendees.

North American 3D viewing habits

Nearly half of all film-goers and one-third of the general population attended a 3D film in 2012. Youngsters aged 12-24 were most likely to watch a 3D film. The typical film-goer aged over 25 attended one 3D film in 2012 compared to the average under-25, who attended two.

2012 film releases

A total of 677 films were released in 2012, up 11% from 609 the previous year. Of these, 36 were in 3D, marking a 20% drop from 45 in 2011.

MPAA member films climbed 17% from 468 to 549, while non-member films dropped 8% from 37 to 34.

The top five North American releases of the year:

  1. Marvel’s The Avengers: $623.4m (Buena Vista)
  2. The Dark Knight Rises: $448.1m (Warner Bros)
  3. The Hunger Games: $408m (Lionsgate)
  4. Skyfall: $288.7m (Sony)
  5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2: $286.4m (Lionsgate)

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