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International movie ticket sales reach new peak in 2011

March 22, 2012 | 11:06 am

Even as domestic ticket sales stalled last year, the international movie business climbed to new heights.  A newly released report from the Motion Picture Assn. of America states that global box office receipts for all films released around the world in 2011 reached $32.6 billion, up 3% over 2010 and 35% higher than five years ago.

The rise in global ticket sales reflects the rapid growth in overseas markets, particularly in China, where the box office grew by a whopping 35% to $2 billion in 2011 alone, according to the MPAA. China has been experiencing a multiplex building boom as Hollywood studios and production companies sign deals to expand their presence in the world's most populous country, which recently took steps to ease its annual quota on the number of foreign movies it allows into the country.

"These numbers underscore the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of the film-watching experience around the world,'' Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the MPAA, said in a statement. "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."

Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada dropped 4% to $10.2 billion, compared to 2010, partly reflecting a $400-million decline in revenue from 3-D ticket sales and a crop of under-performing movies in the first quarter of 2011.

The MPAA noted that domestic ticket sales were still up 6% over five years ago. But theater admissions -- or the number of tickets sold -- dropped 4% in 2011 from the previous year, to 1.28 billion.  And that's an 18% drop since 2002, when 1.57 billion tickets were sold, according to the report.

Domestic movie ticket sales continue to be fueled by repeated visits by frequent moviegoers -- those who go to the movies once a month or more. Frequent moviegoers represent only 10% of the population but purchased half of all tickets sold in 2011.


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Photo: Imax Corp. executives in Beijing announce a  deal with Wanda Cinemas to open at least 100 theaters in China. Credit: Stefen Chow/Bloomberg