Star Wars saves Hollywood's otherwise dismal year

The industry's highest-grossing year also had a record number of flops...

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Global box office earnings hit new heights in 2015 with $38bn (€35bn) being taken in by cinemas around the world.

Analysts Rentrak have said that US box offices alone generated $11.1bn - beating the previous record which was set in 2013.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens remains on course to become the most lucrative release in the history of cinema - it passed the $1.5bn takings mark at record speed, and it is on course to make more than $2bn, a landmark sum which has only been passed by Avatar and Titanic.

Ticket sales are only the tip of the iceberg for the now Disney-owned franchise's earning potential, the film is on course to make €4.5bn through merchandise sales alone.

However, outside of George Lucas's far off galaxy, few films have captured the imagination of the cinema-going public. All of the year's other major hits were sequels, reboots, and spin-offs with Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Minions and Furious 7 (the seventh title in The Fast and the Furious series) completing the list of the year's highest earning films.

Missing the mark

When you take these films out of the equation at US box offices, the remaining 129 films that received national releases produced the lowest return since 2008.

In 2014 31 films grossed between $100m and $350m - last year the corresponding number was only 22 films.

Eight titles backed by substantial advertising campaigns which were given national releases earned less than $10m - including Daniel Radcliff's Victor Frankenstein, the Sandra Bullock-fronted Our Brand in Crisis, and Mortdecai starring Jonny Depp.

Pan, the critically panned Fantastic Four reboot, and George Clooney's Tomorrowland are also noted as films that failed to draw crowds in 2015.

The chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Tom Rothman believes that this is in part due to changing consumption patterns, "many younger people no longer feel compelled to go to the movies as an activity in general," he says, adding that they will only go to see particular films, rather than attending cinemas out of habit.

A New Hope

China is the new frontier for the industry, the country currently has less than 32,000 cinema screens, compared to the 41,000 in the US - a reported 15 screens are opening every day in the country.

Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian commented on the 2015 results:

"The importance of the international marketplace to the overall success of the motion picture studios, the exhibition business and the movies themselves cannot be overstated, with key territories across the globe plus North America providing the collective horsepower to push us near the $40bn mark for the first time ever."