LOS ANGELES 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 in 2011.
Box-office receipts are likely to be up 6 percent compared with 2011, 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 2012’s attendance figure is far from record-breaking - in 2002, 1.6 billion showed up at the box office.
After 2011’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 last 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 last 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 year’s top-grossing films also made a lot more money than the top five pictures of 2011. Last year, three films collected more than $400 million; in 2011, only two took in more than $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.
The holiday season was particularly fruitful for exhibitors, as films with broad appeal like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and awards contenders including Django Unchained lured people out of their homes.
“Just looking at the fourth quarter tells you what works for us - a lot of diverse products, well-made movies and something for everybody,” said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners. “The only thing missing this holiday season was a strong family title.”
Indeed, there were fewer movies for parents and their children to see together this Christmas - which is likely why the PG-rated Parental Guidance is performing better than anticipated. In 2011, six animated or PG-rated family titles were released nationwide between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared with four last year.
MovieStyle, Pages 30 on 01/04/2013
Print Headline: Record box office forecast for ’12