Throughout the past year we kept hearing how the box office was down, attendance was off, and the industry was in big trouble. Some of this was true, but most of it was hyperbole. 2017 was definitely a weird and wild year for film, with several mega-hits, several major faceplants, and complete and total chaos surrounding mergers and acquisitions — insanity that should continue deep into 2018 (let’s be real, this is probably the new normal). However, despite all of the madness, the industry is still trending upward.
Perhaps you’re asking yourself: so what if a bunch of movies tanked while others exploded? How does that affect me? Fair questions, since our only obvious connection to Hollywood’s business affairs are the price of tickets and the cost of popcorn. What we pay to see and our opinions absolutely has an impact on the types of films Hollywood produces. Let’s break it down and talk about it!
According to TheWrap, our domestic (North American) box office was down 2.3 percent in 2017 on earnings of $11.1 billion — this was the third highest all-time, but this growth reflects the rise in ticket prices, since attendance was down overall. Theater attendance is expected to be the lowest since the mid-1990s (the National Alliance of Theatre Owners release their data in late 2018). So yes, things look bleak for U.S. theaters and the studios.
Overseas, however, is where the real story is told. Worldwide box office revenue increased by 3 percent on earnings of $40 billion. What’s really interesting here is the inclusion of a Chinese action film, Wolf Warrior 2, which was the number six overall (beating out Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). We’re accustomed to American movies dominating overseas — and that’s the case again in 2017 — but China has the money, skill, and audience size to make a bigger and bigger impact in the future.
A greater and greater percentage of revenue from all American-made films (primarily from the six major studios) is international. On average, the top 10 films last year earned between 50-80 percent of their revenue overseas. In other words, studio executives will increasingly tweak the biggest films to appeal to international audiences.
So, expect more diversity in casting, more variation in locations, and (probably) safer themes and storylines — dialog and performance isn’t as crucial when more than half the world experiences our films with dubbing. This implies that our current glut of special-effects laden, spectacle blockbusters will continue non-stop, while smaller and indie films continue to get marginalized (or simply shift to streaming services like Netflix).
Did you see more or fewer movies in theaters last year? Let us know in the comments down below!
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