Movie studios look to young, diverse audiences for growth

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), addresses the audience during his "The State of the Industry: Past, Present & Future" presentation at CinemaCon 2017 at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The future of Hollywood movies is in the hands of young and diverse audiences

LAS VEGAS — The future of Hollywood movies is in the hands of young and diverse audiences.

At CinemaCon Tuesday, studio executives and representatives from the National Association of Theater Owners touted the importance of both groups in growing the movie business.

Higher ticket prices helped push the motion picture industry to a record box office total in North American theaters in 2016, but Walt Disney Studios distribution head Dave Hollis said attendance itself has remained nearly flat for a decade.

Meanwhile, the business is getting more complicated as streaming services compete for consumer attention.

Many of the major Hollywood studios are looking at the possibility of shortening the time between the theatrical release of a film and its availability on home video. But Hollis said Disney and its fellow studios "believe deeply that films ... should be seen in a theater."

"We have a common goal to get people to see them in your cinemas," Hollis told people at the convention.

Industry executives say the focus in the coming years will be on consumers 18 to 39, whose attendance has grown in the past two years, as has that of diverse audiences.

Association President and CEO John Fithian said Hispanics constitute the most frequent moviegoers in relation to their population numbers. Attendance by Asian Americans and African Americans has also ncreased.

Millennials make up 55 percent of frequent moviegoers, according to the association, meaning they have seen four movies in the past two months.

Hollis challenged theater owners and exhibitors to keep aggressively competing for the attention of their young audiences through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other technology and apps used by young people.

"We live in a super-competitive world," Hollis said. "Our consumers continue to change rapidly and have more choices than ever before."

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