Movie Box Office Sales Set Record in 2012, Expected to Continue Momentum in 2013

On the heels of massive box office performance from "The Hunger Games" and "The Avengers," 2012 ended up setting a record for total box office sales (a staggering $10.8 billion), and also saw an incredible 1.36 billion tickets sold. popcorn

But what are Americans’ true attitudes toward movies? Who sees them? Are Americans still going to the movies? Do Christians see more or less movies (or the same) as non-​Christians? And, what do believers think of the movies they see?


If you’re a moviegoer, you might assume everyone goes to the movies. If 1.36 billion movie tickets sold in 2012, that means there were more than four movie tickets sold for every American. But, in actuality, a full 35% of the American population says they didn’t see a single movie in theaters in the last 12 months. And of people ages 67 and older, respondents report they’ve only seen, on average, 0.4 movies in the last year—meaning less than half of Elders set foot in the movie theater in 2012.

So who bought all those tickets? As you might expect, it was mostly young adults (i.e., Mosaics, ages 18–28) filling the darkened venues. Of that age group, the average Mosaic saw 3.4 movies in the theater over the last year—double the national average for all adults, which was 1.7 movies per person.


A big year at the box office was also a big year for at-​home movies. With streaming, cheap rental options like Blu-​ray, online renting and purchasing services like Apple TV and Amazon Instant Video, it’s become easier than ever to watch movies at home. In the past year, the average American adult has watched over 10 movies by DVD, Blu-​ray, streaming or video. Once again, Mosaics watched about twice as many movies (20) as the national average while Elders only watched 3.7 movies in these ways. The other age groups fall somewhere in between (Busters see 10 movies this way and Boomers watch 16).

But, the numbers are nearly turned on their head when it comes to movies watched on cable, satellite or broadcast television. While Mosaics only saw 8.4 movies via TV in the past 12 months, Elders watched 12.2. And Boomers, or people between the ages of 48 and 66, watched, on average, over 15 movies on television over the last year.


How does a person’s faith affect their movie watching habits? Well, in terms of the amount of movies seen at the theater, evangelicals saw 2.7 movies at the movie theater in the last year, a full movie more than the national, adult average. In fact, the average number of movies evangelicals saw is bigger than any of the age groups except for Mosaics. The only faith group that saw more movies than evangelicals were people who didn’t identify with any faith—that segment saw an average of 3 movies per person in theaters over the last year.

Which movies did evangelicals see? The year’s biggest film, "The Avengers,"was also a big hit among evangelicals. Over the last 12 months, 42% of evangelicals saw the film. That’s the highest rate except for people with no faith—43% of those surveyed who don’t identify with any faith saw "The Avengers."  Evangelicals also flocked to "The Hunger Games"(36% of them saw it in the last year) and "The Lorax"(24%).

Much has been made about how Hollywood influences the values and spirituality of Americans. And movies do affect how people think about faith and spirituality, but in smaller numbers than religious leaders might expect. For all the concern about the degradation of cultural values and Hollywood’s lack of a moral compass, just 1% of respondents say they saw a movie that changed their beliefs over the last year. Whether this is a perception or a reality is hard to say—but at the very least, people don’t think Hollywood is influencing their values and beliefs. In fact, only 11% of people say they saw a movie in the past year that made them think more seriously about religion, spirituality or faith.


Given the number of movies seen by Mosaics versus the national average—twice the national average—Hollywood will likely continue to produce films that primarily target that age group, because they’re the ones who buy more tickets. What does that mean in practicality? Simple: Expect a lot more superhero blockbusters.

The numbers of people watching movies at home suggests younger people are more comfortable with media that require some knowledge of current technology—learning how to rent and stream something off of Apple TV is certainly more difficult than, say, tuning in to watch a movie on TBS.

[Source:  Research conducted by The Barna Group.  21 Feb. 2013.  Web.  28 Feb. 2013.]