More Americans headed for movie theaters in 2001 than any year since 1959. And one of the reasons is the success of relatively wholesome films aimed at the whole family.
"Part of the explanation for the success of 2001 comes from an important trend toward family-friendly films," said John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at his organization's convention in Las Vegas this week.
"Year after year, the box office tells an important story for our friends in the creative community," he said. "Family-friendly films sell; R-rated features do not."
The numbers back him up: Of the 20 films in 2001 that grossed over $100 million, 17 were rated G, PG, or PG-13. Only three were rated R, the category which restricts the access of children and teens through age 17 and allows for the greatest levels of sex, violence, and harsh language.
None of the top five films, each of which earned more than $200 million in the United States alone, was R-rated.
Overall, the number of people attending a movie in 2001 rose 5 percent from the previous year to 1.5 billion. And total gross box-office gross receipts hit $8.4 billion, compared with $7.7 billion in 2000. Most of the filmgoing was by movie lovers who see at least 12 flicks per year. They accounted for 82 percent of the tickets sold.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, told the theater owners he was pleased with the figures. "A lot of people thought, after Sept. 11, the movie industry would go into the tank, that people would be umbilically connected to their electronic box in their living room and wouldn't dare leave home," he said. Instead, "the opposite happened."