Trends at the Movie Box Office in 2018 and Beyond

In the following segment from a recent Motley Fool's Industry Focus podcast, our Consumer Goods team breaks down important trends in the current year and discusses the changes in movie viewing, which will affect industry players in the years to come.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Sept. 4, 2018.

Vincent Shen: Just with this context, in terms of the dominance that these big studios have, especially with Walt Disney, the fact that it made up half of the top 10 highest grossing films in the U.S. That's $2.4 billion ticket sales for just five films and 66% of the total pie for the top 10 list. That certainly helps to explain why their studio entertainment segment revenue for that business is up 20% year over year for the company through the first half of the year.

The only other thing I want to mention before we move on is, it still continues to surprise me how concentrated the box office is, with the mega blockbusters. I spot checked some of the annual results going back to 1980, top 10 films for the industry, each year. They consistently count for around 35-45% of annual sales each year. Looking at the volume of releases among the top six studios -- that's Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal -- they're releasing fewer movies. From 1995 to 2000, for example, they were averaging about 110 releases per year. In the past five years, closer to 85. On the flip side, studios outside that top six, they're seeing their volume increase.

Another long-term trend -- I think you mentioned this earlier this episode -- it's something that we've talked about before, is the ongoing decline of ticket sales. Box office revenue does go up each year, not because of studios and theaters are selling more seats, but because they're successfully raising the price of each ticket. You think about the wide variety of formats that are available now, including IMAX, then it was 3D, IMAX 3D, and now they have stuff like 4DX, and also the reserved seating, the reclining chairs, all of those things helping to boost ticket prices. At least in the D.C. area, I was looking up a 4DX ticket at a major theater. It makes a trip to the movies cost as much as $22 per person, which is pretty absurd, in my opinion. The experience that 4DX is supposed to add, I haven't tried it yet, but my brother says it's pretty cool. Maybe not $22 cool, but we'll see.

But based on the annualized estimate for this year, 2018 could actually deliver the strongest year of ticket volume growth in almost 30 years. I think a big driver of that is the changing nature of theater attendance and some of the revenue models for the operators.

Asit Sharma has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Vincent Shen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends IMAX and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.