No Surprise

It ain’t the revenues as much as the number of bodies passing through the turnstiles. And the reality, as reported by USA Today‘s Scott Bowles, is that 2010 wasn’t a very good year in this respect. 1.35 billion tickets were sold — the smallest tally in 14 years, or since 1.33 billion were sold in 1996. The headline over Bowles’ story calls 2010 “dismal,” in fact.

The average 1996 ticket price in the U.S. was $4.42. The average 2010 ticket price was $7.85. 2010 attendance fell 5.4% below 2009 levels, which was the largest drop since attendance fell 8.1% in 2005, Bowles reports.

Of course, the option of watching films on demand or via online streaming, or resorting to illegal downloads, or people deciding to wait for the Bluray/DVD is where some of the lost theatrical take has gone. There’s also the fact that the big chains play lowest-common-denomiunator Eloi crap 85% to 90% of the time, and that the picture-and-sound quality of the theatrical experience at many if not most megaplexes doesn’t measure up to a good home-theatre system with Bluray and amplified sound.

Bowles’ statistics came from a just-released study by

23 thoughts on “No Surprise

  1. michael on said:

    Well….I….um….see…..ah, I got nothing.

  2. The definition of “tentpole” has become too wide. When you see a trailer for Gulliver’s Travels during the summer, you’re not exactly chomping at the bit to catch it in December. I genuinely think this is the year, subject-wise, the big studios lost touch with the public. About five people asked for Tron: Legacy.

  3. We tend to wait for films to come to our theatre pub where we can have good pub food, a couple beers all for under $25. I take my grandkids to the local Regal Cinemas and can spend a small fortune after buying treats. Even if we bring candy with us, tickets for 4 come to around $28 and that’s with our senior discount!

  4. Did they count the number of on-demand payments and views? Because I just saw four movies this past week online at AMAZON: The Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo –UGH! Terrible, glad I paid 99c. The Ghost Writer — way overhyped, slow and the worst Polanski I’ve seen. The Expendables and The Kids are Al right.

    This is a great way to catchup on movies when you don’t have time to get to the physical movie house.

  5. Not to get all David Poland, but these figures are based on very shaky analysis.

    Unless was willing (and I can bet you a pile of dough that they weren’t) to go through every movie’s gross and remove both the money and tickets from the final weeks when movies are in “dollar” theaters these figures are crap.

    That said, it’s probably true generally even if it’s not specifically. This was another shitty year at the movies and people aren’t willing to spend the time and money on films that could have easily been made for cable. As much as I liked INCEPTION, I will acknowledge that only in a summer as boring as this was does it do the business it did. There simply was no other “must see in theater” flicks in 2010.

    It’s a shame that with corporate owners nothing can so damage the studios that they collapse and must be rebuilt anew.

  6. The quality adult-oriented films are still doing well. Films like The Social Network or Black Swan are doing bang-up business.

    I really think that Hollywood has screwed up the idea of the summer movie. Think about the summer films of 1982. They were almost entirely ORIGINAL films in the science fiction/fantasy/action genres, and almost all of them (except Tron) made a healthy return. They weren’t outrageously expensive, either.

    Sure, Transformers 2 made a killing in its first weekend, but they quickly die off. And films like these cost $200 million anymore. People are just tired of the regurgitation. Give them original visions, and the audience will come.

  7. Chicago48 and Deathtongue Groupie in OLD AND OLDER.

    Two bitter old haters who haven’t like anything since the LBJ era. Maybe movies just aren’t your thing, fellas?

    I saw 140 movies in 2010. I would rate at least 110 of them as worthy of three stars, or a “B” rating.

    I like almost every movie I see. You should too.

  8. Sorry, Lex, but some of us need more than barely legal tits to hold our interest.

    Would love to see a list of these 3/B flicks.

  9. It didn’t help that Summer 2010 featured one of the sorriest, lackluster group of films in recent memory. I suspect that 2011 ticket sales will be better as there appear to be more potential hits this year.

  10. Lex G, you are on to something. I saw plenty of B graded films this year, and about 10 that I rated the highest – “must see” A grade (4 or 5 stars, depending on your system). While I didn’t see nearly as many as you, I think some of the people on HE don’t actually “like” movies very much.

  11. Any business that’s selling the same number of widgets as they were ten years ago is in trouble. And the movie business has done that while raising ticket prices 40% since 2000.

    The 18-25 audience segment is the fastest declining. That’s a bad sign. But it’s not surprising. What’s the last movie that mattered, really mattered, to that audience? Superbad? And before that, Fight Club? Few and far between.

    Anne Thompson posted an essay of mine on this problem last week (and a modest proposal). She still has it as a featured article on

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