Streaming Service Subscriptions Surpass 1 Billion as Global Box Office Craters

After a year in which most people were stuck indoors, it should come as little surprise that streaming platforms skyrocketed in popularity over the past 12 months. For the first time ever, subscriptions to streaming services surpassed one billion, reaching 1.1 billion globally.

At the same time, box office receipts plummeted because movie theaters across the world were closed for a significant part of 2020. Global ticket sales tapped out at $12 billion, with North America accounting for $2.2 billion of that haul. Though the circumstances aren’t comparable, worldwide box office receipts totaled $42.5 billion in 2019, with $11.4 billion coming from domestic theaters. Still, it marks a 72% year-over-year decline.

These statistics come from the Motion Pictures Association’s annual theme report, which is conducted by the entertainment industry trade group and intends to analyze how film, television and streaming content performs yearly.

The 2020 study covers a year that was overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, making some of the data understandably skewed and difficult to compare box office totals between countries. In Asian countries, particularly in China, the box office has already returned to pre-pandemic levels. That hasn’t been the case in the U.S. and Canada, where new movies are few and far between and audiences are returning to theaters at a glacial pace. Outside of North America, the top three box office markets were China ($3 billion), Japan ($1.3 billion), and France ($500 million).

Combined, the global theatrical business and home and mobile entertainment market totaled $80.8 billion in revenues in 2020, shrinking by 18% from the $98.3 billion amassed last year. The success of digital home entertainment, which grew 23% to $68.8 billion, helped offset the depleted theatrical box office numbers. In the U.S., subscriptions reached 308.6 million, representing a 32% increase from 2019.

“Despite the challenges to the global economy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film television, and streaming industry has once again risen to the occasion,” said Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. “Streaming experienced another huge boom, with new entrants into the market and more than one billion subscriptions worldwide for the first time ever.”

During the past year, people were willing to stream anything and everything to take their mind off the global health crisis. Per the MPA’s study, 55% of U.S. adults reported that their viewing of movies and TV shows through digital platforms increased, while 46% said they watched more pay TV as well. And, in a period that witnessed the swift rise and fall of Quibi, more than 85% of children and more than 55% of adults reportedly watched movies and TV shows on their mobile devices. Younger audiences, specifically those between the ages of 18 to 24 and 25 to 39, were among the most active mobile watchers.

Despite the surge in home viewing, people still frequented their local multiplex, though less frequently. In the United States and Canada, 162 million people (46%) went to the cinema at least once in 2020. Last year, the typical moviegoer bought 4.6 tickets annually. Per capita attendance was the highest among people ages 12 to 17 and Hispanic audiences had the largest presence among ethnic groups.

The MPA also noted that the Classification and Rating Administration rated 497 films in 2020, an escalation from the 488 movies rated in the previous year. It’s the second time in the past decade that Classification and Rating Administration rated more films in a year than it did the previous year.

“We kept audiences connected and entertained wherever they were and whenever they desired,” Rivkin said. “Theatrical and home entertainment remain two essential parts of this dynamic and iconic industry, and I am confident that movie theaters will experience a great comeback in the months ahead.”

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