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2010's Box Office Bonanza?

Last year was the biggest year for the global box office — EVER — if you're looking at total money spent. But in the US, the number of people attending movies is on the decline.

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Today theMPAA released a report showing that global box office receipts hit $31.8 billion, up 8 percent over the prior year. The growth entirely driven by international markets and China in particular. While North America was pretty much flat at $10.6 billion, the International box office grew 13%, Asia Pacific grew by 21%, with more than 40% of that growth in China, despite the fact that China is hampered by a slew of restrictions.

In the US, things would have looked a lot worse if it weren't for 3D films, which cost about three bucks more on average than regular 2D movies. In 2010 3D comprised 21% of the box office, more than double the prior year.

The MPAA and national Association of Theater Owners used today's numbers to boast that the box office has grown in four of the past five years, but what they're overlooking is the fact that higher ticket prices and the 3D premium compensated for the 5% decline in the number of tickets sold in North America. Basically, moviegoers backslid to 2008 levels.

Here's an interesting tidbit: The number of moviegoers actually grew 3 percent over the prior year, but they attended fewer movies. The average moviegoer saw 6 movies last year, down from an average of 6.5 the prior year.

Fanboys — aka "frequent moviegoers" are still driving the top line. Half of all tickets last year were sold to only 11 percent of the population. This disparity is precisely why studios sell to obsessive moviegoers, the kinds of folks who read about movies on sites like aintitcoolnews.com even before production starts. These are the types that go for superhero and action flicks, and if studios are lucky, they'll draw a broad audience of young old, male and female, — what the industry calls 'All Four Quadrants' —as well.

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