Global box office in 2008 surged 5.2% on 2007 from $26.7bn to a new high-water mark of $28.1bn, according to figures released by the Motion Picture Association of America, while international revenues climbed 7% to $18.3bn and accounted for 65% of the worldwide total.
The statistics were part of a salvo of information released by Hollywood’s trade body on the second day of ShoWest, although the delay in announcing key data had prompted speculation that the organisation’s chairman and CEO Dan Glickman was holding back so as not to risk losing stimulus payments from Washington.
Glickman denied this was the reason, and also fended off questions pertaining to the absence for the first time in two decades of data revealing average production and marketing costs for affiliate studios.
‘There’s nothing conspiratorial about this,’ Glickman told reporters after his annual state of the industry address to exhibitors. ‘I don’t think the numbers were terribly meaningful given the nature of the global financing business.’ He said he was considering more accurate ways to break out data on production and marketing spend.
Also missing were updated figures about how much Hollywood loses in potential revenues to piracy. While this is a complex metric to calculate, the Motion Picture Association Of America did release a figure in 2005 but has not done so since then. Glickman said new numbers would be announced in due course but when pressed did not give a timetable and added, ‘The fight against piracy is tough, but we are holding our own.’
Fresh statistics compiled by the National Association Of Theatre Owners show that there were 34 piracy related arrests in the US in 2008 compared to 55 last year and six in the UK compared to zero in 2007. The two biggest surges in the number of arrests came in the Philippines as year-on-year numbers climbed from zero to 51.
Domestic admissions dropped slightly in 2008 to 1.4bn, although they climbed in the fourth quarter of 2008 by 7% and have risen by 8% in the first ten weeks of this year. National Association Of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian said admissions were on a four-decade upward trend overall and noted that the average theatrical release window from theatrical to DVD was four months and 13 days in 2008, six days shorter than the previous year.
The number of films released in 2008 increased slightly from the previous year from 599 to 610. Of these, 162 were from Motion Pictures Association Of America affiliate studios - down from 188 in 2007 - while independents climbed from 396 to 444. The number of digital screens in North America was 5,837 out of a just under 39,000 and of these roughly 2,000 were equipped to show 3D.
In his address Glickman warned delegates that despite the global recession Hollywood must avoid isolationism in order to thrive. ‘We’re the only industry that has a positive balance of payments surplus in every country,’ he said. ‘Imagine what our business would be like if [access were restricted] into the markets of the world where we sell. Now is not the time to build walls.’
Glickman highlighted the record box office in 2008 and rise in admissions and sounded an upbeat note about the theatrical experience, telling delegates, ‘The future is where you get the story out [in theatres] and generate the buzz that fuels additional opportunities.
Fithian remained positive about digital roll-out and said he saw a thawing in the credit markets that would enable digital installation through initiatives like the Digital Cinemas Implementation Partners or self-financing.
Earlier in the day Warner Bros president and COO Alan Horn, coming off a record $1.79bn domestic year for the studio, introduced Robert Downey Jr and directors McG and Todd Phillips during a showreel trumpeting Terminator Salvation (Sony holds international rights), the comedy Hangover, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, and Sherlock Holmes. ‘These pictures will each become members of the $100m-plus club,’ Horn said.
In a long presentation later in the morning Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Group president Mark Zoradi confirmed that Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland would be released in IMAX 3D on March 5, 2010, as part of Disney and IMAX’s five-film deal announced last November that will kick off later this year with Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol.
Zoradi said the studio had lined up 17 3D films for the next few years and announced that a 3D double bill of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 would open nationwide on October 2 for two weeks, when audiences would get to see the 3D trailer for Toy Story 3 for the first time.
Zoradi also introduced a spectacular test sequence from the upcoming Tron ‘reboot’, which begins principal photography in several weeks, as well as 45 minutes of Cannes opening night selection Up.