Movie traffic hits 16-year low

Hollywood is fretting over a drop in audience numbers and ticket revenue. Will 2012 be any better?

By Kim Peterson Dec 29, 2011 3:47PM
Image: Hollywood (© Comstock/SuperStock)This year was a bust for Hollywood.

Movie crowds fell to a 16-year low in 2011. The number of tickets sold is expected to drop 4.4% this year to about 1.28 billion, the Associated Press reports. The price of tickets is higher this year, so the domestic revenue decline was only about 3.5% to $10.2 billion.

Worrisome numbers for studios such as Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX), and for theater owners, such as Regal Entertainment Group (RGC).

Post continues below.
Now, everyone's trying to figure out what happened. The economy is obviously one reason for the decline.

And then there's this: Of the top-grossing movies this year, only one out of 15 was not a sequel or some sort of spinoff. That would be "Bridesmaids," which ranked No. 12.

The top five movies were all sequels: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1," "The Hangover Part 2" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

Another reason cited by the AP is all the portable and at-home gadgets that now keep everyone occupied. People can watch movies on their phones and iPads, and Netflix (NFLX) and Coinstar (CSTR)-owned Redbox make it easy to find something to watch instead of going to the theater.

"Consumers are being more specific with their choices on how to spend their money," the general sales manager at Warner Bros. told the AP. "The options are a little greater than they were a few years ago with gaming and social-networking opportunities."

Dec 29, 2011 6:53PM
We can't afford the popcorn anymore so why go?
Dec 29, 2011 7:35PM

I don't go because I think a lot of people have forgotten how to behave in public. Crying babies, seat kickers and foot propper uppers, people taking calls on their cell phones and texting with bright screens, talking during the movie. They act like they're in their own living room! Better watch out if you ask someone to move their smelly feet away from the back of your head, you might get stabbed nowadays!


Sorry, I have to go, darned neighbors kids are on the lawn again.


Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!!

Dec 29, 2011 7:15PM
Maybe if we could afford to go and the movies were worth paying to see, we would go more often...? I went to the movies this past week and nearly broke the bank. Tickets, at 12:20 in the morning, were $9.25 each. Snacks for the two of us, which was popcorn, nachos and two drinks, cost us over $25. Two people. Seriously? 
Dec 29, 2011 8:10PM
I stopped going to the movies 5 years ago when ticket prices got to $9.      I simply won't be part of this stupidity any more.      Two people, a large coke and a large popcorn cost about $30 and the movies aren't worth it.   My wife and I now go to one movie a year, and we go to a matinee, and sneak in our snacks.       I have to vote with my wallet, and I want the theaters and studios to know they are too damned expensive.     Sooner or later the studios and actors will get the message that they are making too much money.   Cut your prices and people will return.   
Dec 29, 2011 7:58PM

Mission Impossible Imax (2 tickets) 33.00
Parking with validation 14.00
1 small popcorn and soda, M&M's: 14.00
3 hours babysitter time (2 kids that aren't old enough to enjoy the movies yet) : 40.00
Total was about $100.00.

Not Doing that again.

Dec 29, 2011 7:37PM

Nobody can go to a movie with there family anymore just cant afford it .By the time you buy tickets for mom ,dad and 4 children you have spent way over your budget .

What about seniors they do not have a reduced rate for them either .I hope someone comes up with some budget prices for familys and senior .That about covers it except to say something to say about not everyone likes to share popcorn and drink a drink and everybody drinking out of the same cup .That happens all the time .They would sale way more drinks and etc. if they would cut down on the total cost of a night out to the movies with the family .

Thanks Rhino5


Dec 29, 2011 7:14PM

i still love the experience! i'm too broke to go very often, usually sneaking in my own candy, but i buy a soda. i love movies, but they are expensive.

Dec 29, 2011 7:40PM
Maybe it's because they keep remaking movies from 20 years ago because nobody in hollywood has any original ideas anymore?
Dec 29, 2011 6:53PM
Should we mention that DVDs are now coming out 3 or 4 months after the film premieres in theatres.  Ticket prices are hard enough to justify without the DVD coming out before the film leaves theatres.
Dec 29, 2011 7:54PM
This is a heartrending story. What ever will those multimillion dollar actors do for a living......

Someone before said it best, people can't afford the popcorn anymore and the movies themselves are absolute garbage.

Dec 29, 2011 8:31PM
Going to the movies use to be a great date, now it's too expensive for teenagers and young adults.  Work on the ticket and snack prices and we will come back.
Dec 29, 2011 7:00PM
Look at the top five list. These are the best and not one is worth seeing.

"Money Ball" got me to buy a ticket--the first time in more than a decade. 

Hollywood has ruined the movie business by selling out to banks, type casting lead roles (rather than securing good actors) and computerized graphics. Chintzy (their current demeanor/product) will be their downfall. 

Ticket price increases will surely hurt the bottom line more. Who cares? It is all unreal anyway.
Dec 29, 2011 7:33PM

Too expensive to go often...i usually see the big visual movies(Avatar, LoR) on the big screen but wait for movies like "girl with the dragon tattoo" to come out on DVD...i don't miss much watching those types of movies on TV screen


Dec 29, 2011 10:04PM
I love how he never mentioned anything about how ridiculisly expensive movie tickets have become.   That seems to me to be issue #1...I know its why id rather go to redbox.
Dec 29, 2011 9:00PM
I find this article a little amusing and VERY stupid for someone supposedly knowledgeable about economics. Ticket prices have gone up well over $10 each per person and the cost of popcorn and drinks requires another minimum $20 ----And they claim not to understand why traffic has dropped. Hey genius, drop the cost by 20% and you will see more than a 20% increase in attendance. Given alternative sources of entertainment and the emergence of big screen HDTV systems why would ANYONE shell out $40 plus dollars for a movie night when they can rent one for $4 and have as much soda, beer and popcorn as they like? It really is not rocket science. The quality of new releases has something to do with it, but that is more a risk/benefit analysis. If the cost were lower, people would be willing to go and see a movie that they might not enjoy. But at such high costs, they are more likely to risk the high cost on a sequel when they enjoyed the prior edition [less risk].
Dec 29, 2011 8:27PM
How about the price of a movie ticket? And popcorn??
Dec 29, 2011 9:37PM
Shocker (not).  Let me explain from just one person's point of view.  I can get a Netflix DVD for whatever movie I'm in the mood to watch.  I can make my own popcorn which is many times better and many times less expensive.  I drink whatever I want AND get refills and spend about 10% of what theaters charge.  Oh yeah, and theater tickets for my wife and I cost more than a whole month of Netflix. 

Add to that the fact that I don't tolerate obnoxious people in my living room and I don't have the sound up twice as loud as it needs to be.  Should anyone at all be surprised that I don't go to movie theaters? 

Dec 29, 2011 9:35PM
Last time I went to a movie, it was $28 for 2 people to see Mission Impossible. Maybe the price is it.
Dec 29, 2011 8:14PM

There are a lot of reasons why movie sales are down. Aside from a bad economy, there is high ticket sales, watching films illegally, illegal downloads, and getting the DVD or Blu-Ray three to four months after the film's release.

Another factor seems to be a lack of good films that offer creative, original, or decent plotlines. Sequels, remakes, and franchises are one thing, but too much of it can be bad or wear the consumer down. I have not seen many movies in theaters this year, in fact, the last time I was in a movie theater was June 2011. I am going to the movies this weekend to see 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' I feel that will be worth the cash just like 'Bridesmaids' was for me.

Dec 29, 2011 7:08PM
I don't like to go any more because the theaters have the sound so loud, makes it hard to enjoy..
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