Ticket Sales Down 3 Years Straight: A Trend?

This the third straight year of decline in Hollywood ticket sales. Sales are down 12.6 percent from 2002. More and more analyists are starting to wonder if it’s a permanent trend, and what the cause is.

I don’t know where these analyists and producers have been, but my feeling, and a feeling I see echoed on the internet in blogs or by talking to my friends, is that for the past couple years, the movies have just sucked. Here’s a bunch from the past couple years that all lost money: Walking Tall. The Alamo. Two Brothers. Catwoman (-$17m). Exorcist: The Beginning. Wicker Park. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Seed of Chucky. The Life Aquatic. Flight of the Phoenix. Elektra. Son of the Mask. Sahara. Star Wars III (ok, so this made $200m. It still sucked). XXX: State of the Union. Dark Water. Stealth. A Sound of Thunder. Doom. Memoirs of a Geisha. (see the biggest loser list about halfway down this page).

Some of these were supposed to be major blockbusters. I have only even seen a couple of them, and was disappointed to say the least. I could probably go back even farther, but that list (2004-2005) took long enough to compile already. Past trends of bad movies have made people skeptical. A good example is Stealth. When I first saw the trailer, I thought: wow, that is going to suck. I have never watched it, but everyone I’ve talked to that watched it thought it was bad. A few years ago, I probably would have went to watch it, but with the stuff Hollywood has been putting out in the last few years I knew not to waste my money.

I think that bad movies are only one factor. There are still actually quite a few decent movies. Going to the theater is expensive, and that is obviously a factor. $24 for a couple tickets, another $15 or $20 for popcorn and pop. Many people have surround sound systems and decently sized TV’s, so one of the traditional reasons to go to the theater – the big screen and sound – is not as big a draw anymore. My roommate actually just bought a 50″ widescreen TV (previously we had a 31″, which was still decent), and with our surround system and subwoofer I’d even say it’s got a better picture and sound than the theater.

I can put my feet up at home. I can lie on my couch. If I’m watching a movie with my girlfriend, I don’t have an uncomfortable arm rest in between us. I can pause, and go to the bathroom, or get food or drinks from my fridge.

A movie rental costs $5, popcorn and a couple drinks is maybe $4. So what added value is the theater giving me for the extra $35 it costs? The chance to see it a couple months earlier than if I wait to see it at home? That’s not worth $35 to me. It’s not even worth the $10 more it costs to go to the theater than to buy and own the DVD.

The theaters really need to get their act together and provide something worthwhile for paying this extra money. Maybe put in tables, and serve people drinks and food. Lay-z-boys instead of row seating. Alcoholic beverages. I’m not really sure, but I do know that I feel very little incentive to go to the theater anymore.

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