LOS ANGELES: The global box office for films took in a record $38.6 billion last year, industry figures showed Wednesday, although receipts outside North America declined for the first time in 12 years as the Chinese market slowed.
The worldwide figure, bolstered by globe-striding behemoths like "Captain America: Civil War" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," marked a one percent rise on 2015, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
"The continued strength of the box office demonstrates that cinema remains the premier way to experience great storytelling for audiences around the world," said Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA, a lobby group representing the six biggest studios.
"In the United States and Canada, there are key indicators that suggest the future may be even brighter, with increases in attendance among younger demographics and diverse communities, in particular."
The MPAA´s annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report put the North American box office at $11.4 billion, a two percent improvement over 2015, with 246 million people seeing at least one movie in theaters.
But foreign box offices totaled $27.2 billion, down slightly from $27.3 billion the prior year, thanks to a dramatic halt in box office growth in China, the association said in the report.
Ticket sales in the world´s number-two economy, which have been soaring for years -- 49 percent in 2015, for example -- dropped one percent to $6.6 billion in 2016.
Although the foreign decline appears small, it is the first since 2005 and will worry US studios increasingly relying on the burgeoning middle class in developing economies.
Non-North American box office revenues represented almost three-quarters of the total last year, compared with 63 percent a decade ago, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the United States and Canada, theatergoers aged 18 to 24 saw an average of 6.5 movies last year, more than any other age group, while attendance among African Americans and Asian audiences also rose.
The MPAA noted that three of the top five grossing films drew a majority female audience in North America.
The total number of cinema screens worldwide increased by eight percent in 2016 to nearly 164,000, due in large part to continued double-digit growth across the Asia Pacific region.
"The film industry continues to thrive because every facet of the industry -- production, distribution, and exhibition -- is relentlessly innovating to bring new stories to life on the big screen," added Dodd, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut.