By Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America
Generation after generation, people all across the globe have fallen in love with the magic of cinema. Audiences everywhere appreciate the shared experience of sitting in a darkened theater, escaping into the incredible stories on the big screen, and letting the imagination run wild. It doesn’t matter if that cinema is in Beijing, Mumbai, Barcelona, or Boise, Idaho.
Today, more than a century after movies first captured our collective imagination, the global importance of the film industry continues to grow. Regardless of where films are created, they have an extraordinary capacity to rise above national borders and cultural differences. Their recurring themes—of courage, justice, humanity, and love—are universal, and just as important and relevant today as they were generations ago.
Even in an increasingly digital world, the cinema experience remains the backbone of the global film industry, entertaining audiences while producing real economic benefits. Consider 2015’s record worldwide box office that grew by 5 percent and generated $38 billion. More than $27 billion of that total came from the growth of the international marketplace, where Europe saw a 9.6 percent increase in total box office receipts and China’s grew a staggering 49 percent to reach $6.8 billion.
But even more than the box office return, it is the growth in the number of cinemas around the world that has demonstrated their continued dominance. In the midst of the digital revolution, the number of cinema screens worldwide grew 8 percent last year to over 152,000. Across the European Union, audiences flocked to their local cinemas more than one billion times. Spain, in particular, saw the number of cinema admissions grow by 7.5 percent.
What this means is that there is audience demand for high-quality, well-told stories able to transcend cultural and linguistic differences. Creators and film studios are responding to this call and working with their partners in other nations in increasing numbers to meet that demand.
As a result, we now have multicultural casts and crews working together on films produced jointly by American and foreign studios and shot in locations all across the globe. We have Warner Bros. investing in local Spanish co-productions, such as Fernando Gonzáles Molina’s period drama Palm Trees in the Snow, and DreamWorks Pictures joining with Germany’s Studio Babelsberg last year to make Bridge of Spies. And, for the first time in half a century, American actors and crew members are filming on location in Cuba.
As we celebrate this new collaborative world, however, we cannot lose sight of the challenges our industry continues to face, such as protecting our content from large-scale piracy. It is incumbent upon all responsible players in the global film community and the larger digital ecosystem to work together to ensure an environment that continues to inspire and support creative collaboration while protecting intellectual property and the people whose jobs depend on it.
Doing so not only ensures that these wonderful creations continue to be shared with global audiences, but that these industries remain vital sources of jobs and economic development the world over. In the United States alone, the livelihoods of nearly two million workers are supported by the film and television industry, which generates over $121 billion in wages every year. The impact is similar in Europe, where the broader creative industry is responsible for roughly seven million jobs and contributes approximately $567 billion to the region’s economy.
The world has been transformed dramatically in the century since audiences first experienced the wonder of film. Our industry has changed with it, embracing technological advancements both in how we tell stories and how we reach audiences. Filmmakers will no doubt continue to change and adapt to create films that reflect their worlds, so that, in the future, the experience of going to the movies remains one cherished by audiences everywhere.