Annual statistics released by the Motion Picture Association Of America (MPAA) confirm China as the second biggest market outside North America behind Japan and reveal that the record $22.4bn international gross accounted for 69% of worldwide revenues.

North American admissions dropped 4% to 1.28bn and the average ticket price increased by 1% from $7.89 to $7.93. Box office in North America fell 4% from $10.6bn in 2010 to $10.2bn and 3D box office dropped by 18% from $2.2bn to $1.8bn.

Heading into what is expected to be a blockbuster summer MPAA and National Association Of Theatre Owners (NATO) personnel will be encouraged by the start to this year, which so far is tracking 14% ahead of the comparable period of 2010 driven by the $121.6m success of The Vow (pictured), among others.

North American 3D box office fell $400m in 2011, hardly surprising given the juggernaut performance of Avatar in early 2010.

“These numbers underscore the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of the film-watching experience around the world,” MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said. “The bottom line is clear: people in all countries still go to the movies and a trip to the local cinema remains one of the most affordable entertainment options for consumers.

“Innovation and technology continue to be a driving force for our business,” Dodd continued. “People are driven to fill theatre seats by the promise of great films and a great, technologically enhanced movie-going experience. But online content theft continues to threaten the economic success of our industry – an industry that employs millions of Americans and brings money into the .S economy from around the world. We should protect that success, not undermine it by stealing products and cutting the revenue it puts into the US economy.”

“Global box office continues to grow nicely as new markets develop,” NATO president John Fithian said. “In mature markets such as the United States the business can be more cyclical in the short term, driven by product supply and distribution patterns. In the long term, however, domestic receipts continue to grow. Though 2011 U.S. box office was down 4%, 2012 looks to be another growth year. Box office is up nearly 14% year-to-date so far in 2012, with a strong slate of summer movies coming.”

International box office
Looking at the international picture by region, every area climbed to new heights: Europe, the Middle East and Africa produced the biggest figure of $10.8bn, marking a rise of 4% from $10.4bn in 2010; Asia-Pacific increased 6% to $9bn from $8.5bn; and Latin America registered the biggest percentage increase as overall revenue grew 24% from $2.1bn to $2.6bn.

For the record the overall international gross in 2010 reached $21bn compared to $18.8bn in 2009, $18.1bn in 2008 and $16.6bn in 2007.

By county, Japan was the top international market in 2011 on $2.3bn followed by China on $2bn, France on $2bn (provisional data from IHS Screen Digest as of March 2012), the UK on $1.7bn, India on $1.4bn (provisional data from IHS Screen Digest as of March 2012), Germany on $1.3bn, Russia on $1.2bn, Australia on $1.1bn, South Korea on $1.1bn and Italy on $900m.

Screen count
The global figure increased by 3% in 2011 to “just under 124,000” according to data compiled by IHS Screen Digest, while the report noted that digital deployment grew by 79% year-on-year to the point where more than half the world’s screens are digital, albeit not all digital 3D.

The number of global digital screens climbed from 35,062 in 2010 to 62,684 in 2011. International accounted for 56% or 35,215 of the 2011 total compared to 27,469 North American digital screens. The international number climbed year-on-year by 79% from 19,579 to 35,215 while the corresponding number for North America went up by 77% from 15,483 to 27,469.

Turning specifically to the year-on-year increase in digital 3D screens, the worldwide number climbed 57% from 22,411 to 35,479. By region it grew 50% in North America (8,505 in 2010 to 13,695 in 2011), 61% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (8,143 to 11,642), 58% in Asia-Pacific (4,659 to 8,116) and 97% in Latin America (1,104 to 2,026).

North American admissions
As previously earlier in this article, theatre admissions in 2011 fell to 1.28bn from 1.34bn in 2010, continuing a general decline from 1.57bn in 2002.

The report noted that the admissions level dwarfed comparable figures for theme parks (350m) and sports fixtures (133m), although it did not provide year-on-year data for the latter two.

A family trip to the cinema continues to represent good value compared to other forms of entertainment. The total average ticket price of $31.72 for four people compares to $107.64 for a Major League Baseball game and $193.92 for a National Basketball Association game, rising to the most expensive activity cited in the report, an average $309.44 outlay for a family of four for an National Football League game.

North American attendance demographics
More than two-thirds of the population of North America aged two or above went to the cinema at least once in 2011, resulting in a figure of 221.2m. The average film-goer bought 5.8 tickets over the course of the year.

Ten per cent of the entire North American population are described in the report as “frequent” film-goers who account for 50% of total ticket sales, whereas 10% are “infrequent” and account for 2% of sales and the 47% “occasional” band accounts for 48% of ticket sales. Thirty-three per cent of the population does not go to the cinema and the report noted that frequency portion and corresponding percentage of ticket buying “remained comparable to 2010.”

Twenty-five-39-year-olds remained the most “frequent” film-going demographic and number some 9.7m compared to 7.7m in 2010 and 6.3m in 2009. The 18-24 band fell from 7.4m to 6.6m. The overall gender share remains about 50-50.

The ethnic breakdown stayed much the same as in 2010 with 19.56m Caucasians categorised as “frequent” film-goers compared to 19m in 2010. Hispanics represent a large number in relation to their proportion of the population although the figure dropped from 10.2m to 8.4m, which the authors of the report attributed to difference in sample size over the years.

Films rated, released and produced
The number of films rated by the MPAA’s Classification And Ratings Administration climbed 7% and the number of films including non-theatrical increased year-on-year from 706 to 758, of which 589 came from non-MPAA member distributors and 169 from members.

The top grossing film of the year in North America was Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 on $381m, followed by Transformers: Dark Of The Moon on $352.4m, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 on $274.8m, The Hangover Part 2 on $254.5m and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on $241.1m.