MPA Report Shows ‘Punishing’ Year At Box Office Due To Covid Closures Was Partially Offset By Digital Home Entertainment Growth

Box Office, Breaking News, Charles Rivkin, Film News, Motion Picture Association, News, Politics

The Motion Picture Association released its annual report on box office and home entertainment, and the bottom line is sobering but little surprise after a year of Covid closures.

The U.S./Canada box office market was down 80% in 2020, to $2.2 billion, while tickets sold were down 81% to 0.24 billion.

Still, that was offset by home and mobile entertainment, which increased to $30 billion, up 21% from a year earlier. The number of online video subscriptions increased 32% to 308.6 million.

“Perhaps most significantly, during an otherwise punishing year for theatrical exhibition and our industry at large, home and curated entertainment boomed,” MPA chairman Charles Rivkin wrote in the report. The full report is here.

Globally, theatrical box office was $2.2 billion in 2020, down 72% from a year earlier. The international market, which excludes the U.S. and Canada, was off by 68% to $9.8 billion.

The global mobile/home entertainment market reached $68.8 billion, up 23 percent and driven by digital viewing. The number of digital subscriptions to online video services increased to 1.1 billion during the year, an increase of 26%.

Overall, the combined theatrical and home/mobile market was $32.2 billion in 2020, a drop of 18% from $36.1 billion a year earlier.

The combined global theatrical and home/mobile entertainment market dropped to $80.8 billion in 2020, from $98.3 billion a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the MPA’s Classification and Rating Administration rated 497 films in 2020, up from 488 in 2019. But the number of movies released was just 338, from 987 a year earlier. The estimated number of movies that entered production was 447, a decrease of 45% from a year earlier.

The report also showed how different the impact of Covid-19 has been in different countries. While theaters remained closed in the U.S. and Canada, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, restrictions relaxed in China and Asia-Pacific countries, and it showed in their box office returns with local content.

As theaters begin to reopen in major cities, including Los Angeles and New York, the big question is whether the pandemic has permanently shifted moviegoing habits. According to the report, 55% of U.S. adults reported that their viewing or movies or shows via a subscription service increased, while 46% said that their viewing via pay TV rose.

“Ultimately, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated and intensified changes that were already occurring across the industry,” Rivkin wrote.

The pandemic also saw some studios releasing titles directly to streaming or on-demand platforms, either on the same day as a theatrical release or bypassing the venues entirely. According to MPA research, 59% of adults who watched movies via electronic sell-through or on-demand services also paid to rent movies newly or not released in theaters.

With theaters “experiencing their worst lows in recent memory,” Rivkin wrote, he pointed to one pandemic trend: drive in movies, with those venues having their “highest returns in decades.”

He wrote that “while we do not know what form our future success will take, what is clear is that our audiences want to watch stories in almost any form.”  

Other stats: Frozen II was the top movie streamed in the U.S., while Ozark was the top original series and The Office was the No. 1 “acquired” series (i.e. reruns), according to Nielsen data.

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