China Plays Lead Role in Propping Up Hollywood

US cinema admissions, which have fallen sharply over the past decade, dipped again in 2011 although sharp growth in international markets, particularly China, kept Hollywood growing, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2

There were 1.28 billion cinema admissions in the U.S. and Canada in 2011, compared with 1.57 billion in 2002.

Box office revenues fell 4 percent to $10.2billion compared with 2010 while revenues from 3D movies slumped 18 percent, or $400million, as audiences rejected higher prices and less appealing films.

But the surging growth of China and other developing markets lifted total global box office revenues by 3 percent to $32.6bllion.

“China is adding eight new screens a day and 75 new Imax screens this year,” said Chris Dodd, the former Democratic senator who is the MPAA’s chairman. China has lifted the number of US-made films it will allow to be screened in its cinemas, which Mr Dodd said was “a great opportunity for the US film industry”.

Mr Dodd revealed that the heads of the six big Hollywood studios had met Xi Jinping, China’s vice-president and heir apparent, as part of negotiations to expand the quota of US-made films.

Several Hollywood studios have struck joint-venture deals with Chinese partners to ensure their movies qualify for distribution in China, while DreamWorks Animation, the company behind the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda movies, is building a production?facility?in?Shanghai with state-owned media companies.

International box office revenues rose 7 percent in 2011, thanks to China, which rose 35 percent, and Russia, the MPAA said.

US box office revenues have fluctuated over the past decade, following a record year in 2002. New 3D screens and higher industry-wide ticket prices have maintained revenues, but the clear trend is towards declining admissions.

“A 10-year baseline that starts in 2002 is not as favorable to us as a 20-year or 30-year baseline,” said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. He expressed confidence that admissions would grow in 2012, thanks to a strong slate of summer films. “My guess is we will see an improvement this year,” he said.

Mr Dodd said growth in global box office revenues underscored “the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of the film-watching experience around the world”.

“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.”