The NZ box office held its own in 2014, closing up a little over 2% albeit off smaller attendance numbers. Overseas fewer bums also sat on cinema seats, although the financial implications varied from place to place.
In the US, still the world’s largest box office, a dip in blockbuster earnings helped the overall annual box office fall 5% against 2013. Studios were quick to dismiss any speculation about a trend, behind closed doors there’ll be considerable concern about research showing movie-going by the lucrative 12-24 year old punters fell 15% against 2013.
Of the year’s top ten earners in the US, led by Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, only Maleficent was a non-franchise title. None of the top ten were titles originally created for the screen.
While blockbusters are – by definition – the best earners, there’s increasing evidence they’re not necessarily the best way to turn a profit. Although Universal earned less than four of the other five major US studios, head of distribution Nikki Rocco said 2014 had been Universal’s most profitable ever – not too shabby for a company whose 2014 releases included Dumb and Dumber To, Dracula Untold and Ride Along.
Hong Kong saw a 1% growth at its box office in 2014, ending the year with a take of HK$1.65 billion (US$213 million). 51 of the 310 titles screened were local, although the definition of “local” in Hong Kong has widened considerably in recent years.
Only two local titles made the top ten: Matt Chow’s Chinese New Year comedy Golden Chicken$$$, a sequel to which will arrive next month, and From Vegas To Macau. Other locals doing well included Fruit Chan’s HKIFF opener The Midnight After.
Unsurprisingly Transformers: The Age of Extinction, parts of which shot in Hong Kong, was #1, taking HK$98.2 million. Captain America 2 and The Amazing Spider Man 2 took the other podium spots, with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes #8. Surprisingly Guardians of the Galaxy, the best earner in a number of territories worldwide, didn’t make the top ten list.
Mainland China’s box office grew 36% during 2014 to RMB29.6 billion (US$4.76 billion). While the figure missed the RMB30 billion target set earlier in the year, it did represent real income growth despite the ongoing cinema building programme which saw an average 15 new screens added each day. China ended the year with 23,600 screens, an increase of just under 30%.
Domestic titles took 54.5% of the RMB29.6 billion take. Local titles making producers happy were led by romcom Breakup Buddies, featuring one of the leads of 2013 box office champ Lost in Thailand; (yet another retelling of) The Monkey King, featuring one of the leads of NZ-shot Crouching Tiger, Burning Warehouse, Donnie Yen; plus late runners The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Jiang Wen’s Gone with the Bullets, a sort of follow-up to 2010 international festival favourite Let the Bullets Fly.
Of the foreign titles allowed in, the year’s biggest earner by a huge margin was the China-focused Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, featuring Chinese actress Li Bingbing and Chinese American actress (and former Power Ranger) Erika Fong, both of whom featured extensively in Chinese promotional activity. The film took US$319.58 million, almost twice the earnings of second-placed Breakup Buddies. Its closest international rival was Interstellar (US$121.63 million). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes closed with US$108.47 million while the second part of The Hobbit trilogy collected US$74.87 million.
In Korea the box office grew by 1% in terms of admissions, bucking the trend elsewhere that saw fewer bums on seats. Even better, Korean exhibitors converted that small growth in numbers to 7% growth in take, collecting KRW1.66 trillion (US$1.52 billion).
The 231 local films getting a theatrical release just snagged a win with 50.1% of total admissions, but foreign films won the dollar count largely due to offering a larger number of 3D releases with attendant premium pricing.
The Admiral: Roaring Currents was the box office grand champ, also performing well at Korea’s major awards events, as local titles took six of the top ten spots.
Like China and Korea Japan rowed its own boat, giving strong support to local fare, with seven of the top ten being home-grown and none of the three foreign titles being ones which really troubled top ten lists elsewhere. The box office champion with just shy of US$250 million (over three times the take of the #2 title) was Disney’s Frozen.
Rounding out the top three were Stand by Me Doraemon and Maleficent, making Japan the only territory in the world to deliver three animated films as its highest earners.
Over in the UK, the surprise box office champion was The LEGO Movie, with The Inbetweeners 2 and Paddington the best performers of the Bristish bunch. Transformers: Age of Extinction, 2014’s worldwide #1, didn’t make the British top ten.
At the end of the year, the still-on-release The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies had become the second best earner in the UK, with Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes fourth.
Partly because major franchise blockbusters such as Transformers and Guardians of the Galaxy failed to fire in the UK – at least compared with their performances elsewhere – the UK box office take fell almost 3%. The 2014 take was £1,133,975,157 (US$1.72 billion) against 2013’s £1,167,909,853 (US$1.77 billion).
All of which makes NZ’s steady as she goes 1% gain during 2014 look like a reasonable result.