Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Crait

Genre movies are powering the growing, shifting global box office

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Dec 17, 2018, 6:00 PM EST (Updated)

As movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War continue to draw massive audiences and affirm to major studios that the tentpole approach pays off, a new film industry report shows how genre movies are helping to fuel a surging global box office.

The Motion Picture Association of America’s newly-released 2017 report on the expanding global entertainment market reveals that theaters worldwide are places that people want to be, and that no matter where on Earth they are, people want to see characters like Kylo Ren, Belle, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man... and pretty much all of Spidey's MCU neighbors.

Even as U.S. and Canadian box office numbers show a slight 2017 decline, the global appetite for movies has grown voraciously. The worldwide box office brought in a record-setting $40.6 billion last year, led by China’s broadening theater market, while revenues in the U.S. and Canada dipped to $11.1 billion — a two percent drop from the previous year (which, at $11.6 billion, itself represented a record high). While the U.S. share of the worldwide box office may be falling, though, it reflects how the appeal of the movie theater continues to increase in other parts of the world.

What are people ponying up their dollars to see? Genre, genre, genre. Domestically, the MPAA found that all but one of last year’s 10 highest-grossing movies (sorry, No. 10, The Fate of the Furious) was a genre feature.

The popularity of horror, science fiction, animation, and fantasy isn’t just an American phenomenon — it’s consistent throughout the world. Of the 20 highest-grossing movies on Planet Earth last year (according to Box Office Mojo), 17 are genre-adjacent. (Bonus fact: In both markets, Star Wars: The Last Jedi took the top spot, narrowly edging out fellow Disney feature Beauty and the Beast.)

Interestingly, shifting American demographics appear to translate into a more inclusive domestic box office where genre films still dominate. According to the MPAA, Latinos attended movies in the U.S. more frequently than any other ethnic group, followed, in order, by Asians and African-Americans. Caucasians, the majority of the U.S. population at just more than 60 percent, still represented the most frequent theatergoing audience.

The MPAA’s full report is a stat lover’s dream, so if you’re interested in a deeper dive into box office trends both domestic and foreign, here's the link to the sprawling, character-crammed document. And no matter where you are or what your background, keep returning to the theater... we’ll even look the other way if you want to sneak your own candy.