Movies reel in $175m - plus the popcorn

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014

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Movies about a man's iron suit, animated minions and a tale of being stranded on a boat with a tiger helped reel in 14.5 million movie ticket sales across the country's cinemas last year.

But "steady as we go" admissions were propped up by more popular and more expensive 3-D movie ticket prices, which pushed overall box office takings higher in 2013.

About $174.9 million worth of movie tickets were sold in 2013, statistics from the New Zealand Motion Picture Distributors' Association (NZMPDA) showed.

This was up 1 per cent on 2012 and slightly below 2010's record $176.5m.

Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2 and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were the most popular movies for New Zealand cinema-goers for the year ended December 25, 2013.

Each film collected more than $6m in ticket sales, though The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which only opened on December 12, was worth about $5m in sales in its first two weeks alone.

New Zealand films Mt Zion, Mr Pip and Beyond the Edge grossed $1.3m, $1.1m and $880,000 respectively.

NZMPDA president Peter Garner said The Hobbit's second instalment had continued strongly into this year, having now sold about $8.8m worth of tickets.

Garner said 2013's result was pleasing, given the broad spread of films which featured in the top ten.

"It's steady as we go, it's slightly up on last year, which is pleasing, but overall it's pretty much status quo.

"We've got to have a good mix of genre. We've got to get all age groups going to the movies."

Local audiences were shifting to 3-D movies as more of the 400 screens across the country upgraded to new digital technologies, Garner said.

In 2012 about 57 per cent had digital capability, having converted from 35 millimetre projection, but the majority now had these facilities, he said.

Total admissions for 2013 were about 14.5 million, which was flat with 2012.

This was a drop of about 1 million since 2005, though up substantially from 1991, when 6.1 million tickets were sold.

According to Statistics New Zealand, about 40.6 million movie tickets sold in 1961.

Garner said it was difficult to work out the average ticket price in 2013, and whether it was going up or down, because there were so many offerings available now.

But, as more people chose 3-D, total revenues were up slightly, because the tickets for these films were generally more expensive. "The 3-D is a higher price-point at this point in time and I think that's obviously reflected in that slightly higher box office."

Based on admissions and box office data, the average cost of a ticket rose from $11.94 in 2012 to $12.06 last year.

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In Wellington an adult ticket to a 3-D film could cost about $20, with some theatres charging extra to buy 3-D glasses.

Garner said the movie theatre market was "very mature" now and the industry focus should shift to enhancing the quality of the movie-going experience.

This would also help combat piracy, which continued to plague the industry across the world.

HOT TICKETS

New Zealand box office takings up to December 25, 2013:

1.Iron Man 3 $6.7m

2.Despicable Me 2 $6.6m

3.The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $6.3m

4.Life of Pi $5.2m

5.The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug $4.8m

6.The Croods $4.4m

7.Fast & Furious 6 $4.3m

8.Gravity $3.9m

9.Les Miserables $3.8m

10. Man of Steel $3.6m

- The Dominion Post

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