UPDATE 1-Global box office 2012 sales up 6 pct; China sales spike

Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:41pm EDT
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* International market up 6.7 pct; China up 36 pct

* China now largest international market

* 2013 off to slower start than 2012

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES, March 21 (Reuters) - Hollywood had a hit year in 2012, both internationally and domestically, as global box office ticket sales rose 6 percent to $34.7 billion, fueled in part by a big spike in China that made the country the largest international market.

Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which released the yearly figures, said the overall strength reflected the fact that the top releases spanned several genres, from action movies like "The Avengers" to historical dramas like "Lincoln."

"The diversity of the movies was unusually strong. We had the kind of movie slate we need to see and people showed up," John Fithian, NATO president and chief executive, said on a conference call with reporters.

Fithian said the same magic has not held true so far for 2013, which has gotten off to a slower start. Box office revenues were off 12 percent year-to-date through the week ending March 17, according to Hollywood.com, which tracks box office trends.

"2013 is not performing as well as expected. The diversity was just not there," Fithian said. "In January, we had a lot of movies rated R with a lot of violence. There's been very little family fare," though he said he was more confident about this year's movie slate going forward.   Continued...