Global cinema box office hits record $38.6 billion, top 10 movies

19 May 2017 6 min. read
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Global cinema sales have risen to $38.6 billion in 2016, with revenue growth being attributed among other things to the great popularity of blockbusters including Star Wars: Rogue One and Captain America: Civil War. Cinema-goers were also presented with an opportunity to revisit the magical world of Harry Potter, with November release Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and to the underwater paradise of a beloved Pixar character in summer’s Finding Dory. Thanks in part to these films, the global box-office entered 2017 riding high.

The international cinema market has seen stable sales growth for years, with data from The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) shows that worldwide sales reached $34.7 billion in 2012, thanks to smash-hits including Avengers Assemble, Skyfall and the first instalment of The Hobbit trilogy. In 2013, Disney-mega-hit Frozen, the return of the Iron Man franchise, Despicable Me and The Hunger Games prompted revenue to further rise to $35.9 billion.

Following 2014’s impressive haul of $36.4 billion, which saw Marvel’s first Guardians of the Galaxy outing accompany new editions of the Transformers and The Hobbit series, the largest growth was achieved in 2015 – with a jump of $2 billion to $38.4 billion. The record turnover can largely be attributed to the resurgence of two great fantasy worlds – the long awaited return of Star Wars with the record-breaking Episode VII premiere, while and the dinosaurs of Jurassic World proved a continuing attraction some 22 years after the original Jurassic Park premiered in 1993.

Global box office revenues by region

Global box revenue by region

Over the past year meanwhile box-office revenue continued to climb – increasing by around $200 million to $ 38.6 billion. North America (US and Canada) accounted for almost a third of global sales last year, totalling $11.4 billion – 2.4% more than in 2015. Due to strong growth, the Asia-Pacific region has notably become the largest region in cinema sales, totalling almost $15 billion – about $4.5 billion more than in 2012, and an increase of 5% compared to 2015 figures.

However, while sales continued to boom in North America and Asia, it was not necessarily the case everywhere. In Latin America, sales fell 17.6% to $2.8 billion last year, while the European cinema market has been shrinking for four consecutive years – conversions dropping from $10.9 billion to $9.5 billion between 2013 and 2016. The data show, however, that the decreases in the regions are in part also due in part to higher ticket prices and the dollar exchange rate relative to local currency.

According to the MPAA, the increase in global sales has a significant impact on the dates on which major films are launched. Where first blockbusters were formerly released in the summer and Christmas holidays, the premieres of big movies have gradually become spread more throughout the year. This makes consumers less likely to have to choose between two or more large movies when they go to the cinema.

Top 20 largest markets

Although the Asian region is now larger in sales than the North American, the US and Canada remain the largest cinema sales market. Raking in $11.4 billion in sales, the North American market has grown by nearly $5 billion, growing a gap between NA and the Chinese market by $2.6 billion. The gap between the two has increased over the past year as a result of a box-office decline of almost 3% in the Asian nation.

In spite of this, China is the only market close to the US and Canada. Sitting third in the rankings, Japan boasted an annual revenue of $2 billion in 2016, and while this is smaller than a third of Chinese sales, Japan has achieved a very impressive 27% revenue growth, a growth only surpassed by India, where an increase of 28% was realised in 2016, as the country saw a turnover of $1.9 billion.

Global box office revenues – top 20 markets

The first two European markets in the list are in fifth and sixth place: the UK with $1.7 billion and France with $1.6 billion revenue. The two largest European markets grew closer together last year, due to a drop in cinema sales in the UK (-10%) * against an increase in France (+ 6%). Germany stands at # 8 by $ 1.1 billion, down 13%, and had to pay off to South Korea, where the cinemas raised $1.5 billion last year. The top 10 will be closed by Australia and Mexico, the last 15% of which has delivered cinema sales in 2016.

After four countries – Brazil, Italy, Russia and Spain – which have around $ 700 million in cinema sales, the Netherlands is in a fifth place with a turnover of $0.3 billion. Dutch cinema sales are similar in size to those of countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Argentina and Hong Kong.

Cinema screens

Worldwide, the number of cinema screens dropped to almost 164,000 in 2016. Especially in the Asia-Pacific region, the number of screens increased rapidly - a growth of 18%, much higher than global growth of 8% compared with 2015.

The vast majority (95%) of the screens are meanwhile digital. By 2016, the share of digital screens has grown by another 10%, but saturation continues to slow down. With 90%, the share of digital screens in Asia is the lowest. What is further evident in the data is that worldwide sales of 3D movies have fallen over the past year, while the number of films released in 3D fell by a third in 2016.

Top 10 movies with highest box office revenues

Top 10 biggest movies of 2016

Of the major movies that arrived in the cinema over 2016, Captain America: Civil War performed most impressively, with a global box office revenue of over $1.1 billion. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory and Zootropolis each brought more than $1 billion meanwhile, with Rogue One bringing most money in the US market. Disney’s part-animated remake of The Jungle Book meanwhile ranked fifth in movies that made the most in 2016, with a box office revenue of just under $970 million, meaning the complete top five was owned in some capacity by Walt Disney Pictures.

In sixth place meanwhile, the first non-Disney movie, Dreamworks production The Secret Life of Pets, made $875 million, just over seventh-placed Batman v Superman – which made the top ten in spite of a critical panning. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them followed in eighth, while Marvel’s Deadpool and rival DC Comics Suicide Squad closed the top 10. Together, the top 10 accounts for a total revenue of $9.3 billion, almost one fourth of total global income.

The MPAA also mapped out the gender demographics of audiences in the US. While figures did not differ drastically, more women attended Finding Dory (55%), The Secret Life of Pets (54%) and The Jungle Book (52%). Star Wars and Captain America meanwhile typically attracted more male audiences, with roughly 60% of seats filled by men.

* The strong decline in the UK can be hedged against the decline of the pound relative to the dollar exchange rate. Where sales declined by 10% in 2016, the value of the pound decreased by 12%.