Foreign Markets and the Big Screen

The motion picture industry, like all major American job creators, is part of a growing and interconnected world economy. But it might be surprising how important foreign movie theater audiences are to the millions of Americans who depend on the motion picture industry for their jobs. What country sells the most movie tickets every year? India -- 3.3 billion tickets to movie theaters. And which country had the largest box office growth last year? China led the way with a 35 percent increase.

The opening of new markets across the world for the motion picture industry is a cultural and economic achievement. Movies contribute to the richness of cultures across the world, with filmmakers from every nation telling interesting and important stories that can only be expressed through the medium of film. And there is nothing like watching a movie in a packed theater. Throughout the world, people are going in increasing numbers to the cinema to have the special experience of seeing a movie on the big screen.

In 2011, global box office receipts increased by three percent to $32.6 billion. Much of that growth was driven by overseas markets. Every international region, from South America to Asia, experienced box office growth. These numbers underscore the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of a trip to the local cinema, which remains one of the most affordable entertainment options for consumers.

I recently traveled to Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai to encourage greater partnership with the film communities in China and India and to encourage more market access for American films.

While in Beijing, I spoke with some of the American and Chinese officials who helped create a landmark trade agreement last month that allows Chinese audiences to see more American movies. This agreement significantly increases the number of American films allowed to be shown in movie theaters in China and provides a larger share of revenue for U.S. film companies.

China is of great importance to American filmmakers. The marketplace for American movies is thriving with the strongest growth in overseas markets, especially China. The Chinese box office had, by far, the largest growth of any major market in 2011 and is the second largest overseas market behind Japan.

Like America, India is a nation where movies matter. They enrich the culture while creating a more vibrant economy that helps the prosperity of the Indian middle class. In Mumbai, I spoke with many Indian government officials along with film and entertainment industry leaders at the FICCI FRAMES conference about the rapid growth of the Indian motion picture industry. Two years ago it was a $3.2 billion industry. Two years from now it is estimated to exceed $5 billion, which is truly incredible growth.

The box office in India is also growing. Last year, there were $1.4 billion in ticket sales, the fifth largest box office receipts in the world.

The expansion of theater audiences is good for the economy in America and around the world. Many movies make from half to seventy percent of their box office revenue in foreign markets. This helps grow an industry on which over 2.2 million Americans depend for their jobs. And this industry is one of the few that consistently generates a positive balance of trade for the United States.

I look forward to another year of great movies and strong box office growth throughout the world. Innovation and technology continue to be a driving force for the motion picture industry. Movie theaters are filled across the globe with people excited about great films and new technology that enhances the movie going experience.