With just a few days left in 2011, ticket sales in North America are running about $500 million behind last year, despite higher prices.
Analysts say that 2010 benefited from holdover sales for “Avatar,” which was released late in 2009. Over all, North American ticket revenue for 2011 is projected to be about $10.1 billion.
That is only a 4.5% falloff from 2010, but studio executives are alarmed by the downturn, in part because the real picture is worse than the raw revenue numbers suggest.
Revenue, for instance, has been propped up by a glut of 3-D films, which cost $3 to $5 more per ticket. Studios made forty pictures in 3-D in the last twelve months, up from twenty-four last year, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Theaters have also continued to increase prices; moviegoers pay an average of $7.89 each, up 1% over last year.
Attendance for 2011 is expected to drop 5.3%, to 1.27 billion, continuing a slide. Attendance declined 6% in 2010.
Hopes that a group of releases would supercharge the Christmas box office fizzled. “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” was a solid number one, taking in $26.5 million in its second weekend for a total of $59 million. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” was second, with $17.8 million in ticket sales, lifting its total to $76.6 million.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” struggled in third place, taking in $13.3 million for a total of $50.3 million. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was fourth, taking in $13 million for the weekend and $21.4 million since opening last Wednesday. Steven Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tintin” was fifth with about $9.1 million ($22.3 million since opening last Wednesday). “We Bought a Zoo” came in sixth, taking in $7.8 million in its opening weekend.
Young people, defined by studios as teenagers and people in their twenties, powered some of the biggest movies of 2011, including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” the year’s number one release with $381 million in domestic ticket sales. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was second with more than $352 million, and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” was third with more than $269 million.
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