South America’s January Box Office Gets 2017 Off to a Good Start

By J. Sperling Reich | February 22, 2017 5:09 pm PST
South American Box Office - January 2017

If the month of January proves to be a bellwether, than South America could be in for a banner year both in cinema attendance and box office. Though obtaining accurate figures is not always easy, based on preliminary numbers from the countries surveyed, it would seem that cinema attendance is up over 18% to 32.51 million and box office increased roughly 38% to an effective USD $141.8 million. Helping solidify gains across the continent were two animated releases from Hollywood studios and a record breaking Brazilian comedy.

Out of the 10 countries throughout the continent in which commercial cinemas operate, seven have reported their numbers. Data is missing from Ecuador’s 350+ screens, Colombia and Venezuela. Given that the latter of these countries is in the midst of an economic crisis, making their currency near worthless, there is no profit to be taken regardless of any box office increase.

Brazil led the way in January with local titles boosting attendance to more than 20 million viewers, up by 6.7% over 2016. Box office increased 12.2% year-over-year to BRL R$301,064,700 (USD $94,179,785) thanks to international releases which accounted for two-thirds of the gross.

Argentina meanwhile was delivering some impressive numbers of its own as the country’s cinema attendance rose during January by 22.8% compared the to the same month in 2016. The 4,031,693 tickets sold during the month is double the cinema attendance during December 2016 and this was only the fifth time admissions have ever crossed the 4 million mark in Argentina during January.

The two animated films that drove growth in the region during the first month of 2017 were Disney’s “Moana” and Universal’s “Sing”. The newest Disney princess helped the mouse house rake in a combined effective USD $27,102,519 last month on attendance of 5,719,428. “Sing” opened in most territories at the end of December yet still managed to sell a combined 3,069046 tickets as the movie played out its run for an effective haul of USD $13,368,463.

In Argentina “Sing” and “Moana”, the top two films in the region during January, accounted for nearly 38% of the ARS $379,289,826 (USD $23,863,582) box office and nearly 39% of attendance.

Giving both a serious run for their money was the hit Brazilian comedy “Minha Mãe é uma Peça 2: O Filme” (“My Mom is a Character 2”) The film became the most viewed domestic film of all time during January providing a perfect illustration of Brazil’s market potential; “My Mom is a Character 2” only played in its home territory, yet earned BRL R$77,224,810 (USD $24,766,746) and sold 5,731,444 tickets.

In dollar figures “My Mom is a Character 2” came in second to “Moana” during January continent-wide but first in attendance, (however once ticket sales are in from Colombia and Venezuela, the Disney film will likely come out on top in both rankings). The discrepancy of having more viewers but earning less in converted dollars has to do with Brazil’s average ticket price of BRL R$14.52 (USD $4.66) and the current exchange rate.

Indeed, a longstanding difficulty of tracking and analyzing the health of the theatrical motion picture industry throughout the region is accounting for the fluctuating politics and economies of numerous countries, many of which have proven unstable over the years, thus creating volatile currency exchange rates that make it difficult to compare results from different periods of time. Instead, attendance has been the most often used metric for reporting the state of moviegoing.

To detail how, in most instances, attendance and local box office has risen throughout South America during January, we’ll look at some comparative numbers below. In addition, we’ll provide some perspective, by demonstrating how seesawing currency exchange rates can affect the returns a distributor collects in dollar figures from year-to-year.

South America Cinema Attendance - January 2017

Country2016 Attendance2017 Attendance% Change

Examining box office in local currency shows that receipts were up in every country except Chile where it was off less than 1%.

South America Box Office (Local Currency) - January 2017

Country2016 Box Office2017 Box Office% Change
BoliviaBs. 21,136,907Bs 25,790,318+22%
ParaguayGs 2,911,602,000Gs 4,682,455,500+60.8%
PeruS/ 25,618,049S/ 33,716,554+33.6%

When converting each country’s January grosses from local currency to dollars, the effect foreign exchange has on box office increases and decreases can easily be spotted. For example, in Brazil January box office was up 12.2% when counted in local currency, but when converted to dollars, the increase is a whopping 41.9%. This is because the Brazilian real (BRL) is up against the US dollar (USD) by 27% thus exaggerating the gain when converting to dollars. The opposite is true when converting Argentina’s box office. It was up 60.6% during January in local currency, a percentage which deflates to 37% in dollars due to an Argentinian peso that weakened by 13% over the past year.

South America Box Office (Dollars) - January 2017

Country2016 Box Office2017 Box Office% Change
J. Sperling Reich