How do we win back younger moviegoers?


Perhaps the greatest threat to the movie business today is that younger audiences aren’t showing up in force at the cinema. Is this just an aberration, or is this truly a trend that requires the motion picture industry to come together and focus on ways to attract the under-25 crowd back to the movies?

Some of the statistics are truly startling. According to one tracking firm, pre-release data measuring audience interest in the time leading up to the release of major films has consistently shown a decrease among moviegoers under the age of 25 this year.
The MPAA has compiled data that indicates that males and females aged 12-24 bought 32% of the movie tickets sold in North America in 2010, down from 38% in 2005 and from 43% in 1990. If you go back as far as 1974, 12 to 24–year-olds purchased 60% of all movie tickets.

It doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to conclude that something is happening in terms of young adults and movie attendance in the U.S. and Canada. There is lots of speculation on what the cause is and what to do about it, but no one truly knows for sure.

Some believe the downward trend is caused by the filmmakers and studios not really aiming at that age range. Price is certainly an issue too. The cost of the ticket and concession items is a definite deterrent. Teens also conclude that spending money on movies means not having the extra cash to buy the next gadget on the market.

Convenience is also a factor: Teens today watch what they want whenever they want to. With new devices like Blu-ray players and services like Netflix, teens never have to leave their homes.

Just recently, Activision released their newest action game—Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3—and sold 6.5 million units for $400 million in one day. Teens have so many alternatives today that going to the movies just doesn’t have the same allure. They remain interested in movies but do not have the same allegiance to theatres as a delivery system. They believe that watching a movie on a computer or TV screen or handheld device has certain advantages that compensate for the loss of the big-screen communal experience.

Earlier this month, Tower Heist was released in the U.S. to disappointing numbers, leading Universal Pictures to speculate that “younger audiences might be deserting the movies.” Despite Ben Stiller’s family following, 73% of the audience for the PG-13 Heist was over 25. The largest segment—27%—was over 50. Those under 18 made up only 15% of attendees.

It’s certainly too soon to write off the moviegoing experience for the younger audience, but this is a major issue like piracy that has to be addressed. Although the industry has garnered good results at the box office over the past several years, there is definitely a downward trend in admissions. Brighter minds than that of this editor are going to have to come up with a way to bring this segment back to their local theatres.

Exhibition is trying new designs and technologies that will make moviegoing a fuller experience. Everything from digital and 3D to dine-in concepts, better and more varied concessions, and alcoholic beverages are being provided in theatres throughout the country to bring people back. It’s a joint effort and we are confident that movie theatres will survive.

The Road to Hong Kong
About 65% of the world’s box-office grosses come from the international market, with the largest percentage from Europe, then Asia and South America.

Each year in December, the Asian film industry travels to Hong Kong for the CineAsia convention. The show is similar to its European and American counterparts—CineEurope and ShowEast—in its format but attracts attendees from another part of the world. CineAsia brings together most of the theatrical exhibitors from the pan-Asian region and shows upcoming film, product reels and new technologies and holds educational sessions on how to improve one’s business.

2011 is no different—only the topics and the films vary. Jon Landau of Lightstorm Entertainment will attend the event and show 3D clips from Titanic and participate in a demonstration of high frame rates. Fox and Deluxe will do a joint presentation on light levels and illumination, and there will be sessions on new streams of revenue for theatres, how to prevent film theft, the growth markets of Southeast Asia, and Asian co-production opportunities.

The convention will boast its largest trade show ever and spotlight some major holiday fare including Disney’s War Horse, Warner’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Paramount’s Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol and 20th Century Fox’s We Bought a Zoo.

Film Journal International congratulates all the award winners including Naoshi Yoda, Exhibitor of the Year; Jo Yan, Distributor of the Year; Terence Chang, Producer of the Decade; Li Bingbing, Female Star of the Year, and Zhang Baoquan, DLP Cinema Marketing Achievement Award winner.

Digital Boom in Asia
The Asian region continues to lead the global market, with digital conversions being driven by an increase in cinema construction as well as the ongoing retrofit of existing cinemas. Digital cinema editor Bill Mead reports that the Asia region has about 7,000 digital screens. China, India and Thailand are the most rapidly expanding cinema markets.

Most of the major manufacturers are well-entrenched in China, as this country is totally underscreened for its population of 1.4 billion people.

* Barco’s Beijing factory is producing nearly 500 projectors a month. The company recently reorganized its Chinese cinema group, partnering with China Film Equipment Company.
* Christie has aligned itself with global real estate company Shimao Group on deployments across China. Wanda Cinema, the largest exhibitor in China, has also signed on with Christie.
* NEC Display Solutions is also focusing its Asian strategy on China and recently installed their projectors with Guangzhou Jinyi, Dadi and Beijing Yida Jiuzhou Film.

In his overview in this month’s edition, Mead also reports on GDC, Dolby, Sony, MasterImage and others in their quest for business in China. China had a good year at the box office, and with the continued growth of multiplexes, it stands to be the number-two grossing country in the world shortly.