Global box office receipts from films released in 2009 jumped 7.6% to a record high of $29.9bn, according to new data from the Motion Picture Association Of America (MPAA).

The MPAA’s annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report, which for the second year did not break out average production and marketing spend, also reveals that international ticket sales climbed 6.3% and generated $19.3m following a big boost from China and Japan, accounting for 64% of the wordwide total (a one point drop on the 2008 breakdown). North American revenues climbed more than 10% to $10.6bn.

The revitalised 3D market generated $1.14bn and accounted for 11% of North American box office compared to roughly $240m and 2% the year before. Twenty films were released in the format in 2009 versus eight in 2008.

  • The level of worldwide screens has remained constant over the past five years at just under 150,000 although there has been an 86% rise in digital deployment, which at a count of around 16,000 makes up roughly 11% of the global total. The 16,000 figure represents a net gain of more than 7,000 screens by the end of 2008.

The number of worldwide digital 3D screens more than tripled in 2009, reaching 8,989, or about 6% of the entire global screen count.

  • Admissions in North America climbed 5.5% to 1.42bn following the first rise in two years and reached the highest level since 1.5bn in 2004. Per capita ticket purchases in the US and Canada reversed a general decline since the recent high of 5.2 in 2002, increasing by 4.6% to 4.3 tickets per person

The report said sales were fuelled by repeated visits to the cinema by frequent film-goers – those who go to see a film once a month or more and who make up only 10% of the population – who bought half of all tickets sold in 2009. 

  • The number of films produced by US production companies has dropped over the past three years. In 2009, the number of US films released in domestic theatres fell 12%, the first decline since 2003. The MPAA said the drop was “attributable in significant part to labour issues affecting the industry in 2007-08, the recession and the challenges to investment recovery due to rampant content theft, and the decline in DVD sales.”

However non-MPAA-affiliated independents continued to release the most films, accounting for 72% of all films released. MPAA member studios and their dwindling subsidiaries released 28% of films. The biggest US release of the year was Paramount’s Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen on $402.1m, followed by Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince on $302m, Disney’s Up on $293m, and Summit’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon on $284.5m.

  • Turning to international box office in 2009 by region, the biggest contribution came, as it has done for the past five years per data offered by the MPAA, from Europe, the Middle East and Africa on $9.9bn. This was followed by the Asia Pacific region, which showed the higest year-on-year climb on 12.3% to $7.7bn. 81% of the Asia Pacific growth came from China and Japan. Latin America accounted for $1.7bn.

In terms of North American demographics, the report shows that “women buy a higher percentage of movie tickets (55%, or 778 million tickets) than they represent of the population (51%), and more than men buy (45%).” Film-goers aged 12-24 represent about one-quarter of attendees, or more than 52m, and one-third of tickets sold, considerably higher than their 19% population imprint. In total, film-goers aged 24 and under buy nearly half of all cinema tickets.

Pointing to the spending power of the hispanic community within North America, the report notes: “Although Caucasians make up the majority of the population, moviegoers (140million), and ticket sales, Hispanics are more likely to go to movies. 37million Hispanic moviegoers purchased 300million movie tickets in 2009, a per moviegoer rate of more than 8 tickets a year, the highest rate of any ethnic group.”

“While the motion picture industry continues to face tremendous challenges elsewhere in our business, we’re reminded again this year that the cinema is the heart and soul of our industry and it is thriving,” Bob Pisano, the MPAA’s president and interim CEO, said.