Numbers down 2.5% yet up 4.5% so far in '09
Theater admissions fell less than anticipated in 2008 — 2.5% — while they are up a sizeable 4.5% so far this year.Tallies provide further evidence that moviegoing has become a favorite pastime in brutal economic times. Industry estimates released at the end of December showed that admissions for 2008 were running 4%-5% behind 2007. However, the decline in admissions turned out to be narrower than that as the National Assn. of Theater Owners announced Tuesday that the 2008 average ticket price was $7.18, lower than expected. (It’s 30¢ more than the $6.88 paid for a ticket on average in 2007.) B.O. revenues for 2008 were up more than 1% over 2007, making it the best year ever at the domestic B.O. For the time period Jan. 2, 2008, through Jan. 1, 2009, revs were $9.64 billion, according to Rentrak. The number of people actually buying tickets at the theater kiosk always fluctuates since ticket prices rise annually. Hence admissions can be down but revenues up. A 2.5% dip in admissions is relatively mild, particularly considering the falloff in other sectors in the last six months. Admissions were down more than 7% in 2005, for instance, and 4.8% in 2003. They were up slightly in 2007 and 2006. The box office has been on a winning run since last summer. Some observers attribute the healthy B.O. to the fact that heading for the multiplex — or arthouse — is far less expensive than other entertainment outings, such as sports or concerts. The strength of the January domestic box office has caught the film biz off-guard. Like admissions, B.O. revs are up, seeing a gain of 7% over the same frame last year. Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” is the leader, grossing nearly $100 million to date for Warner Bros. and well on its way to becoming Eastwood’s best box office earner for a film he’s either directed or starred in. Sony’s sleeper hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” has likewise overperformed, cuming $65 million through Jan. 25.