- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Movie ticket revenue from theaters around the world hit a new high of $31.8 billion in 2010, an 8 percent increase from a year ago, driven by international growth and the popularity of 3-D movies, the Motion Picture Association of America said Wednesday.

Asian ticket revenue grew the most in dollar terms, rising $1.5 billion, or 21 percent, to $8.7 billion. More than 40 percent of that growth came from the boom in movie-going in China, the MPAA said.

However, association president Bob Pisano complained that tight restrictions on foreign films in China crimp profits despite the popularity of Hollywood movies.

“The Chinese box office market is just doing gangbusters,” Pisano told reporters on a conference call. “Hopefully at some point in the near term, people who import films into China will be able to enjoy the financial rewards.”

Theatrical revenue in the U.S. and Canada was flat at $10.6 billion, while in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, revenue grew 5 percent to $10.4 billion. Latin American revenue grew 25 percent to $2.1 billion.

In North America, 3-D releases accounted for 21 percent of revenue, up from 11 percent a year ago, bolstered by ticket upcharges, more 3-D-ready screens, and an increase in the number of 3-D movies to 25 from 20 a year earlier.

The number of films released by the MPAA’s six major studio members _ Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox _ fell by 17 films, or 11 percent, to 141 as they focused on big-budget blockbusters and fewer niche releases. Non-MPAA members released 22 more films, up 5 percent, at 419.

Average ticket prices in the U.S. and Canada rose 5 percent to $7.89, but admissions fell 5 percent to 1.34 billion. On average, people in the two countries went to the movies 4.1 times per year, down from 4.3 in 2009 and off the peak of 5.2 times in 2002.

One of the movie industry’s biggest challenges is luring back members of the Baby Boom generation _ that large chunk of people born right after World War II _ who are going to the movies less often as they age, Pisano said.

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