The global box office experienced an impressive 28% spike for the first quarter from the comparable period in 2009. International proved to be the driving force in terms of growth, helped in part by 3D screen expansion. Len Klady analyses the numbers and reveals studio market share.

There is reason to celebrate as the industry heads into Cannes: Global box office set a record first-quarter gross of $7.92 billion for the period ending March 31, 2010. Revenues were fueled in large part by premium ticket prices and the magnetism of 3D attractions Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. As a result the box office experienced a 28% spike for the quarter from the comparable period in 2009.

Since the debut of Avatar in December, a stereoscopic picture has held the number one ranking in the international charts with the trend continuing into the second quarter with Clash of the Titans.

It also marks the first time in the past five years that all major territories experienced box office upturns during a quarter. Without exception that growth recorded was in double digits and the rare exceptions (in secondary markets) in Greece and Venezuela could be attributed to anomalies in those countries’ film release schedules.

The surge in ticket sales (even with higher prices for 3D factored into the equation) broke down with the domestic marketplace contributing $2.69 billion or approximately 34% of the global box office. The international arena was 94% greater with $5.23 billion.

International proved to be the driving force in terms of growth with a year-to-year improvement of 41% while the domestic sphere experienced a more modest 9% improvement.

In part the rosier picture could be credited to the approximately 7,500 3D digital screens in the international marketplace that more than double the domestic side’s 3,500 total. However, the difference between significant and major expansion once again boiled down to strong indigenous movies and that was especially evident in China and Russia. In India, the industry had its Avatar with 3 Idiots (that coincidently opened on the same weekend) becoming the all-time box office champion and followed by My Name is Khan.

Conversely, despite several strong titles, downturns in revenues for local product in Japan, France and Germany contributed to softer increases.

The Q1 market share saw the six American majors corral roughly 65% of the big picture. In the past 18 months, the U.S. studios have seen their market share grow from 50% to 55% internationally to 65% to 70% as leading foreign producers have been hard hit by the financial recession. With most of the non-American majors getting back to speed and an increasing number announcing 3D production it’s likely the balance between international and American product will shrink back to more traditional percentages.


Territory% Change over 2009 Q1



Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 - Mar. 31, 2010) 
DistributorGross (in millions)Market Share% Change from 2009 Q1
Warner Bros.474.917.70%1.00%
BV  375.714.00%104.30%
Lions Gate87.13.20%-55.00%
Fox Searchlight59.32.20%-67.10%
Weinstein Co.34.61.30%2.40%
Sony Classics23.60.90%156.50%
Other distributors (combined)70.72.60%-63.50%