Despite the summer’s 3% dip in admissions vs. 2011, year-to-date domestic moviegoing attendance actually is up over last year by 2.3%, according to exhibition estimates.

Summer ticket sales, handicapped by an all-time high average ticket price of $8.12 during this year’s second quarter, brought in an estimated 533 million admissions vs. 550 million last summer, when domestic box office hit a record-setting $4.4 billion. This year’s summer tally reached $4.28 billion.

The summer trough in filmgoing was the lowest point in 20 years.

While the year’s attendance drop is discouraging, especially with boffo hits like “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” bizzers still are focusing on the bigger picture of the year overall, with successful first-quarter players including “The Hunger Games” and “The Lorax” setting a strong early pace.

If all goes well through the end of the year, 2012 could end up showing an increase in ticket sales. Year-end highlights are likely to include the “Twilight” finale, James Bond pic “Skyfall” and the first “Hobbit” installment.

Total admissions have increased year-over-year only twice since 2002: The first was in 2006, when attendance reached 1.401 billion — up nearly 2% over the previous year — and then in 2009, at 1.414 billion, for a 5% increase.

Last year, admissions settled at 1.28 billion, representing a 4% decline from 2010.

Concerning the summer, a final figure won’t be available until October, when the National Assn. of Theater Owners releases the third-quarter average ticket price.

Summer admissions are calculated using an average of second- and third-quarter average ticket prices.