Hollywood is finishing its summer with record revenue, but the lowest actual movie attendance in five years.
Domestic receipts from the first weekend in May through the Labor Day weekend should come in at about $4.35 billion – $100 million more than the record set last year, according to Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com.
Attendance is down because of a steep rise in ticket prices, heavily due to a surge in 3-D screenings, which cost a few dollars more than regular movie admissions.
Ticket prices this year are averaging $7.88, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. That’s up 38 cents, or 5 percent, from 2009.
The total number of tickets sold during the summer season is expected to come in at 552 million, the lowest since 563.2 million tickets were sold in summer 2005, Dergarabedian estimated.
“To have record revenue built on the back of much higher ticket prices, in a way, it’s kind of a shallow victory. You want to see attendance go up every year, not down,” he said.
The summer delivered some huge crowd-pleasers, led by Disney’s “Toy Story 3,” which followed “Shrek 2” as just the second animated film to top $400 million at the domestic box office.
Paramount’s “Iron Man 2” shot past $300 million, while Summit Entertainment’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” has almost hit that mark.
Topping $200 million were the Warner Bros. release “Inception,” Paramount and DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek Forever After” and Universal’s “Despicable Me.”
Sony had three $100 million hits with “The Karate Kid,” “Grown Ups” and “Salt.”
Other releases failed to live up to the hype of summer blockbuster season, among them the Warner Bros. sequel “Sex and the City 2,” Disney’s “The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and 20th Century Fox’s “Marmaduke” and “Knight and Day.”
“Audiences were underwhelmed, and they voted with their absence,” Dergarabedian said.
“If you asked most people what they thought of the quality of the movies, it’s kind of a so-so summer. We could have done a lot worse were it not for films like ‘Inception’ and ‘Toy Story 3.’ ”