Sample Book Chapters

Chapter 8 - Distribution To Theaters

Chapter summaries in this section of the website are distilled from 139,000 words in the book.
   Cinema represents one of the few film platforms where distributors collect film rentals—their share of box-office spending by moviegoers—on a per-person basis. One cinema ticket permits only one viewer, unlike television, video, and pay-per view, where any number of persons may view. So film distributors like the economics of cinema.
   This book focuses on the United States and Canada, which for the purpose of theatrical distribution are considered a single territory called the domestic market. Films almost always open simultaneously in both countries because of the common language (with the exception of French-speaking Quebec province) and because most of Canada’s thirty-four million population lives close to the U.S. border.
   Despite growing competition from movies on home video and television, U. S. cinema remained steady at 1.3 billion to 1.5 billion tickets sold annually in re-cent years, according to major-studio trade group Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (see table 8.1).
   The film-classification process in the United States is entirely voluntary, and this is somewhat understood, even within the film industry. Thus, the industry-run Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) is one of the world’s few non-government national film-rating systems.
   In evaluations, CARA does not ban films, unlike classification boards in other countries, and makes no judgment of artistic quality. Each rating is established by a majority vote of the anonymous CARA panel. Filmmakers have the right to ask why a rating was given and, with that feedback, to submit a revised version of a film that will be evaluated from scratch. Filmmakers can challenge a rating to an appeal board from CARA, getting the chance to formally rebut a decision.
   As a rule of thumb, the three-day-weekend gross (Friday through Sunday) accounts for 75 percent of a week’s box office in nonholiday periods. Monday through Thursday, which is a longer stretch of days, contributes the remaining 25 percent. For children’s movies, the weekend share can go to 80 percent in nonholiday periods when school is in session.
   Though most major films collect roughly 50% of box office from the domestic market, there are exceptions. 2010 ballet drama Black Swan—which takes place in New York City—generated 65.5 percent of its global total overseas. Knight and Day did soft domestic box-office business in 2010, considering the star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, but was a solid hit overseas, which accounted for 71 percent of its global box office for Twentieth Century Fox.#

Text copyright © 2013, Robert Marich. All rights reserved.  Used here with permission from SIU Press

Table 8.1 Domestic admissions growth, 1983–2011

1-year; 2-admissions in billions; % change prior year.
2011       1.280 bil.  -4.0 %
2010       1.339     -5.3%
2009       1.414     +5.4%
2008       1.341     -4.2%
2007       1.400     0.1%
2006       1.401      +1.8%
2005       1.376     -7.3%
2004       1.484     -2.4%
2003       1.521     -4.9%
2002       1.599      +11.2%
2001       1.438      +4.0%
2000       1.383     -3.9%
1999       1.440      +0.1%
1998       1.438      +6.2%
1997       1.354      +2.7%
1996       1.319      +8.9%
1995       1.211     -2.3%
1994       1.240      +4.9%
1993       1.182      +7.6%
1992       1.099      +2.6%
1991       1.141      -4.0
1990       1.189     -5.9%
1989       1.263      +16.4%
1988       1.085     -0.3%
1987       1.088      +7.0%
1986       1.017     -3.7%
1985       1.056     -11.9%
1984       1.199      +0.2%
1983       1.197      - -
Source: Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)