The kids are back


Just months ago, everyone was questioning the viability of younger audiences showing up at the cinema. Box office was down, fewer people were coming to the movies, and the doomsayers were writing off these young adults. Was it because the studios were no longer aiming at that age range? Was it the prices at the box office and concession stand? Or was it that this age group was saving their dollars to buy the next-generation techno-gadget?

The statistics also indicated that there was something happening in terms of young adults and movie attendance in North America. The MPAA compiled data that showed that males and females aged 12 to 24 bought 32 percent of the movie tickets sold in North America in 2010, down from 38 percent in 2005 and from 43 percent in 1990.

It appeared that the industry would be in a dejected mood as it got ready to attend the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. But one is never truly able to predict box office and, wow, things have turned around in a few short months! The young audience is back—maybe they were just taking a brief hiatus to watch movies on their computers, TV screens and handheld devices. Tremendous grosses on films like The Hunger Games, 21 Jump Street and Project X make an excellent case that the kids are still enthusiastic about seeing pictures in the cinema.

The industry can take a step back and breathe a well-deserved sigh as these numbers keep on coming. At the time of writing this editorial, box office for 2012 was up 20 percent from last year and admissions in the U.S. were up 23 percent from 2011.

Films like The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Men in Black 3, Battleship and The Dark Knight Rises should keep this age group coming back throughout the coming months and could give us another record year at the box office.

Studios Support NATO
With the National Association of Theatre Owners’ decision to move their annual show to late April for the 2012 edition, they in fact gave the major Hollywood studios a bigger window for preparing materials to show to the delegates or to screen a feature film. As we go to press, the CinemaCon website shows that all six major studios are participating in the Las Vegas convention this year. That is good news for the industry.

The Las Vegas show is the best venue for the studios to hype their product and screen as much footage as possible, because nearly every important theatre circuit is present during the four-day event. It is also a great opportunity for the theatre equipment manufacturers to display their new technologies; this year, we will be experiencing 3D sound, laser illumination and some new and smaller digital projectors.

What’s really great about this April is that the industry is ahead of last year at this time in both box office and attendance. Product is working and young adults are coming back to the theatres in large numbers. One can never discount the experience of the big screen and nothing attracts patrons like good content.

The Motion Picture Association of America recently released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2011. The report shows that global box-office receipts for all films released around the world reached $32.6 billion, an increase of three percent over 2010 due to ongoing growth in international markets.

International box office represented more than 67 percent of the world’s revenues, with the North America box office of $10.2 billion down four percent in comparison to 2010. 3D box office was also down, but figuring in the phenomenal success of Avatar in 2010, that is understandable. These figures and the current trends at the box office will be evaluated at CinemaCon’s opening ceremony by John Fithian and Chris Dodd, presidents of NATO and the MPAA, respectively.

Saluting Jack Ledwith
It’s not often that the right guy is put in the spotlight and receives accolades for a job well done. Most often it’s his boss or the largest donor, but this year CinemaCon certainly got it right in presenting the 2012 Passepartout Award to Jack Ledwith, senior VP of international distribution for Universal Pictures.

Don’t be fooled by this mild-mannered and soft-spoken person—Jack Ledwith is an accomplished executive with more experience and expertise in the field of international distribution than most. Jack’s illustrious career with Universal began in 1996 as director of international planning and analysis and during his tenure with the company, the studio has had its three highest-grossing years.

Jack’s accomplishments with Universal paid off when he was named to his current position in 2007. He is also currently on the steering committee of Universal’s Content Protection Team and is also an active member of the NBC-Universal Mentoring Program.

Jack is dedicated to his company and the industry and is well-respected by everyone that knows him. This editor is proud to call him his friend and is delighted that the industry has seen fit to honor him this year at CinemaCon. Way to go, Jack!