LOS ANGELES —
“Theaters are offering IMAX, bigger chairs, dine-in options and alcohol,” said Don Harris, head of distribution at Paramount. “It’s kind of like the difference between staying at a Hilton or a Ritz Carlton. I think what you saw this year was a growth in a segment of the audience that isn’t as worried about the price of a movie ticket as they are interested in the out-of-home premium experience. I think you’re going to see that going forward.”
And with all of the bells and whistles now offered at theaters, movie-going is still one of the least expensive ways to be entertained, compared to concerts, sporting events and live theater,” notes Richie Fay, Lionsgate’s president of domestic distribution. (So far this year, the average cost of a movie ticket in North America has been $8.05, according to NATO.)
Social media has also helped boost sales, Fay observed, with Twitter and other services providing a powerful marketing tool for studios and a faster way for fans to spread that all-important word of mouth. “People don’t have to wait a day for a print story anymore. It’s an important part of the growth of the industry.”
Studios are hoping to continue that growth in 2014 with such anticipated releases as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” and “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”
“I think the fact that attendance is at least holding its own is impressive, given the number of other media options in the mix,” said Rentrak’s Dergarabedian. “Going out to the movie theater is clearly as attractive, relevant and viable as ever with audiences.”
Although year-end figures for the overseas box office are not yet available, foreign receipts are typically two to three times higher than domestic earnings. So fan-driven hits like “The Hangover Part III,” which grossed $112.2 million in North America, are expected to earn more than double their domestic takes overseas.
“With all of its ebbs and flows, ups and downs, the theatrical experience just continues to resonate,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony.
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