David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Global moviegoing, including Iceland

Sunday | November 5, 2006   open printable version open printable version

DB here:

How many screens are showing movies theatrically across the world? What is the global box-office take? How many people go to the movies? What do movie tickets cost in various countries of the world? In what nations do people go the movies most often? Least often?

Comprehensive and reliable information on these matters is hard to come by. Fortunately, there are media research companies that track such information….for a price.

We pay the price, because the information is central to our research. But there’s no reason to keep you in the dark, so herewith some factoids from 2005.

Global box office receipts: $23.6 billion.
This is down from 2004 ($24 billion), but still the second highest ever recorded. Europe and US slumped a bit, but in Asia and the Far East, receipts were up. Markets outside North America yielded about 59% of world box office.

Global admissions: 7.5 billion.
India provides 3.8 billion of that alone! China is relatively thin in theatrical admissions, with only 157 million. Western Europe yields about 850 million, as compared with the USA, with admissions of 1.4 billion.
The big news is that admissions have declined significantly in most countries, often ranging from 5-20 %. Even the USA has seen nearly a 10% drop in admissions. The overall box-office slump isn’t as severe because the dwindling attendance has been offset by a rise in ticket prices and a boost in some countries’ admissions, most notably South Korea (up about 7 %) and China (up nearly 15%).

Global screen count: 149,083.
Nearly 40,000 of these are in China (but many are temporary or occasional venues). The USA has nearly as many screens, at 39,000. But China has 1.3 billion people, while the US has only 300 million. At the other extreme, poor little Tunisia, with 10 million people, has only 22 movie screens.

Screens per million population: Iceland is the leader (about 160 screens per million), followed by Sweden and the US, each with about 130 screens per million head.
The lowest proportions are in Vietnam, Tunisia (no surprise), and Ukraine, with about 1-2 screens per million population.

Average global ticket price (in US dollars): $3.14.
Most expensive ticket: Switzerland ($11.55). Lowest: India, at $.32. US: $6.41.

Visiting the cinema
Most visits per capita: Iceland (4.77 times per year), USA (4.73), Singapore (4.16).
Others: France and Spain (2.9), Belgium (2.1), Japan (1.26), Russia (.55).
Fewest visits per capita: Cuba (.17), Romania (.13), China (.12).

The data aren’t complete for some countries, chiefly those in Africa. Still, the figures are intriguing. Here are a couple of inferences.

North America, chiefly the US and Canada, yields a disproportionate chunk of box office receipts: a whopping 41 %. Why? These countries are at once populous and prosperous. Elsewhere, the most populous countries (e.g., India, China) aren’t as wealthy, and so ticket prices are low. The most prosperous countries, where people can afford high ticket prices, tend to be small ones, like Western European and Scandinavian nations. The US and Canada have the best of both worlds.

Another inference: Some countries are densely screened, with the US being a prime instance. It’s a strategy driven by the idea that each weekend includes must-see movies. So there need to be a lot of screens to accommodate demand for the same films over the same three days. But that’s just the weekend; outside the biggest cities, theatres are virtually empty the rest of the week.

It’s too soon to say if the drop in attendance is temporary or part of a long, slow decline. These patterns tend to fluctuate over several years. In 1995, worldwide attendance was 6.8 billion, so recent years have seen a healthy growth.

There’s a lot else to speculate on here, but let’s not neglect one conclusion. Icelanders really, really like movies.

PS: Send me a photo of an Iceland movie theatre, preferably full of Icelanders, and we’ll add it to this entry.

Thanks to the good people at Screen Digest, and particularly David Hancock’s department. The information above is culled from SD‘s annual profile “Global Cinema Exhibition Trends,” published in October 2006.

Comments are closed.

David Bordwell
top of page

have comments about the state of this website? go here