Los Angeles Times
Batman, James Bond, teenage vampires and a team of superheroes helped propel domestic movie ticket sales in 2012 to a projected all-time high of $10.8 billion, reversing a slump that saw attendance drop to a 16-year low last year.
Box-office receipts are likely to be up 6 percent compared with last year, as is attendance, which is on track to hit 1.36 billion, according to Hollywood.com. That’s much-needed good news for the film business, though this year’s attendance figure is far from record-breaking — in 2002, 1.6 billion showed up at the box office.
Meanwhile, ticket sales from abroad continued to significantly boost bottom lines in Hollywood, as 15 of the year’s top 20 pictures grossed more abroad than they did in the U.S. and Canada. For instance, 81 percent of the total $875 million in receipts for the 3-D animated film “Ice Age: Continental Drift” came from overseas.
After last year’s dismal domestic results, Hollywood executives were nervous about 2012. Then, a shooting at a Colorado movie theater during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer shocked the nation and the industry, leading some to worry that crowds would shun cinemas on a long-term basis. But audiences returned, with attendance and revenue particularly strong in the fourth quarter, both up 18 percent over the same period in 2011.
Theater owners and distribution experts are attributing the uptick in domestic business primarily to better studio movies this year. Indeed, four of the five top-grossing films of the year — more commercially minded popcorn fare like “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Hunger Games” and “Skyfall” — were critical darlings, notching an 85 percent positive rating or above on the film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. The year’s fifth most popular title, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” wasn’t received as positively by reviewers, but its young female fan base still turned out in droves to see stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the fifth and final installment of the vampire romance.
“The old-school thought was that tent poles ... didn’t need good reviews, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” said Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for Lionsgate, which released both “The Hunger Games” and the final “Twilight” picture. “If moviegoers see a title get good reviews, they’re going to come out once - and may come out a second or third time.”
The year’s top-grossing films also made a lot more money than the top five pictures of 2011. This year, three films collected more than $400 million; last year, only two took in over $300 million. As in recent years, the biggest hits were again high-budget productions with built-in brand awareness — either sequels or films based on popular comic books or novels.
But it was a strong year for low-to-mid-budget, adult-oriented fare too: Ben Affleck’s CIA thriller “Argo,” Steven Spielberg’s historical drama “Lincoln” and the R-rated stripper flick “Magic Mike” all crossed the $100-million mark at the domestic box office.
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