Movie insiders regularly complain that less people are going to the movies, the theatrical experience is shifting to the home and piracy is cutting into box office profits. However, that’s not the story the numbers tell. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, worldwide box office receipts actually rose 8% in 2010 to $31.8 billion dollars. Of course, much of that has to do with rising ticket prices (up $.39 this year) and the sheer number of movies that demand a premium price, but it’s still a staggering number that goes against popular thinking that movie attendance is dying.

Plus, a deeper look at the numbers reveals something quite telling. Eleven percent of the U.S. and Canadian population go to the movies more than once a month and that small percentage accounts for more than half of the tickets sold. So why are we getting movies that cater to a majority of people who don’t go to the movies? Break down the numbers and learn a few other very interesting facts about movie going trends after the jump.

All of these numbers, and a whole lot more, were revealed in a 16-page document called “2010 Theatrical Market Statistics” released by the MPAA (with a heads up from Ars Technica). You can download it here, and it’s full of interesting information

The one cheat about that 8% increase in total box office is that it all came from international markets. The United States basically made the exact same amount of money as it did in 2009 while that number jumped 13% internationally. How did that happen? Because in the U.S. and Canada, the amount of actual tickets sold in 2010 DECREASED by 5% from 1.42 billion to 1.34 billion. But, here’s where it gets interesting.

Out of those those 1.34 billion tickets, 51% of them were sold to “frequent moviegoers,” which is defined by people who go to the movies once a month or more. The rest are sold to people who go to the movies less than once a month. However, out of the total population of America, where only 68% of people go to the movies at all, those “frequent moviegoers” are a puny 11% of the total (or, if you do the math, 16% of the moviegoers). It’s kind of like the economy where a small minority is responsible for the majority of the business.

Based on that data, here’s my thinking. Obviously if 11% of the population accounts for 51% of the box office dollars, there are still a significant 49% of the profits left to be accounted for and you have to try and get the other 89% to come to the movies. But if 11% are already coming to the movies pretty often, why wouldn’t you cater to that minority instead of the majority who don’t? It seems like the majority of movies that are released cater to a mass audience as opposed to a niche audience, yet it’s the niche audience who is going to the movies over and over.

Of course, people who go to the movies more than once (which is a pretty even cross section of age and sex) are probably attracted to some of the lesser fare (myself included) but it’s still a pretty interesting statistic that advocates catering to the minority instead of the majority.

Definitely check out this report and see what you can deduct from it. There’s info on how movie going compares to other kinds of family entertainment, the biggest grossing movies of the year and much more. It’s truly fascinating.

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