Worldwide box office reaches US$29.9 billion

MPAA report credits 3D for all-time high numbers, up 5.5% in Canada and U.S.

The movies may not be gaining more eyeballs but the owners of the world’s eyeballs are paying more for movies. That’s the gist of the Motion Picture Association of America’s 2009 annual report.

Global box-office receipts reached a record high of US$29.9 billion, a 7.6% increase from 2008 and a nearly 30% increase from 2005. The U.S. and Canada accounted for a little over one-third of that record sum, with US$10.6 billion in grosses. More than one in 10 of those dollars was spent at a 3D screening, where exhibitors charge a premium.

‘With 20 films released in 3D compared with just eight in 2008, higher value entertainment contributed significantly to box office revenues,’ commented the MPAA. Given that the 2009 stats only reflect the opening frames of Avatar‘s $1 billion-and-counting run, next year should offer still more eye-popping numbers.

Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada were up 5.5% from 2008, the first increase in two years, while per capita ticket buys increased 4.6% to 4.3 tickets per person. The MPAA said sales were fuelled by hard-core moviegoers: persons who go to the cinema once a month or more bought half of all tickets sold in 2009.

The report, issued this week, also showcased the dramatic ascent of digital projection. At year’s end there were more than 16,000 digital cinemas worldwide, an 86% increase from the same quarter in 2008 when there were fewer than 9,000. Meanwhile, the number of digital 3D screens tripled to nearly 9,000, representing 6% of the world’s 150,000 screens.

The MPAA commented that 3D is the fastest-growing sector of digital, although it is hard to imagine which other sectors there might be.