Movie ticket sales up in North America

North American ticket sales will close out the summer season with a more than 14 per cent increase.
North American ticket sales will close out the summer season with a more than 14 per cent increase. PHOTO: REUTERS

Cinema attendance reverses last year's losses and defies notions about streaming

LOS ANGELES • Movie theatres are having their best summer in two decades, reversing the losses from last year's disappointing season and showing resiliency in the Netflix era.

North American ticket sales will close out the summer season with a more than 14 per cent increase, research firm ComScore estimated, fuelled by the outsize performance of Walt Disney's Incredibles 2 (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). That is the percentage gain since 1998.

The season officially draws to a close with the Labour Day weekend in the United States.

"The notion that streaming has led to a decline in cinema attendance is really over exaggerated," said Mr Phil Contrino, a spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Summer ticket revenue, always dependent on the studios' bigbudget pictures, can be volatile. Last year, sales plummeted a similar 14 per cent when a few major releases came up short.

Still, the spoils are not shared equally. Disney has almost doubled its sales from a year ago, according to Box Office Mojo, while Universal Pictures and Paramount are also up substantially. But other major studios are down.

One concern that may also fade is the disruption caused by MoviePass, which shook the industry by offering unlimited moviegoing for under US$10 (S$13) a month.

Constrained by losses, the service is now limiting customers to three movies a month, and major exhibitors, including AMC Entertainment Holdings, have come up with their own subscription plans.

With the summer bouncing sharply higher, analysts are raising their forecasts for the full year, crediting the Disney blockbusters and surprise hits like Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and The Meg (2018), an action film about a giant shark.

Mr Leo Kulp, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, predicts full-year growth of 5 per cent, reaching a new record, after projecting a flat 2018 previously.

One caveat: Those forecasts include the effect of higher ticket prices, rather than just a stampede of filmgoers to the cinema.

They also hinge on upcoming films performing well. That includes potential Oscar contenders like A Star Is Born, starring actor Bradley Cooper and pop star Lady Gaga, as well as more commercial fare like Mary Poppins Returns, starring actress Emily Blunt as the titular character.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Movie ticket sales up in North America'. Print Edition | Subscribe