U.S. Movie Ticket Sales Plunged 6% in 2017, Thanks to Lousy Summer

Thanks to the worst summer in a decade, U.S. movie admissions slid 6% last year to 1.24 billion for the lowest number since 1995, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported.

North American box office for the year declined 2.55% to $11.09 billion, NATO said Wednesday. That figure was slightly lower than the $11.12 billion estimate released at the end of the year by box office tracker comScore.

NATO pointed to a summer shortfall without naming titles as the key reason for the declines. The summer saw several high-profile titles such as “The Mummy,” “Baywatch,” “Transformers: the Last Knight,” and “The Dark Tower” perform well under expectations.

“2017 highlighted once again the importance of a balanced, 52 week movie calendar,” NATO said. “A record Q1 (in box office and admissions) was offset by a disappointing summer, with a range of sequels that were not embraced by audiences in the numbers we are accustomed to. Summer 2017 was 92 million admissions short of summer 2016. An unusually empty August accounted for half of summer 2017’s shortfall.”

The organization said the 2017 fourth quarter was nearly equal to 2016, with 315 million tickets sold compared to 319 million.

The average 2017 ticket price jumped 3.7% from $8.65 to $8.97 with the fourth quarter average soaring from $8.79 to $9.18. NATO pointed to the combination of premium prices for tentpole films (such as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) and awards contenders.

“Q4 saw a preponderance of sales in films offered in 3D and large format screens (all of the five highest-grossing films and seven of the top 12), as well as a large number of adult-skewing awards-contending films,” it said.

Overall ticket sales peaked in 2002 with 1.57 billion, then declined to 1.52 billion in 2003 and 1.48 billion in 2004. Those are still the highest admissions years over the past three decades.

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CREDIT: Elizabeth Potash

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