Patt Morrison for December 30, 2011

Dismal year-end movie box office sales bring little holiday cheer to theater owners

Janne Moren/flickr

With a phalanx of holiday films out there, from “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" to Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” there’s been an expectation for theater owners ending the year on a high note. But have theater goers been flocking to big ticket movie fare in droves? Nope.

As of Monday, box office sales for the U.S. and Canada sunk 4 percent for the year compared to $10 billion a year earlier, according to box office tracking firm Hollywood.com. Not only that, but the firm forecasts that sales for the entire year will be down 5 percent to $1.27 billion, the lowest level since the mid 1990s. A rally in ticket sales this summer apparently couldn’t lift up holiday season sales, and the country’s top theater chains have taken a considerable hit, with stock prices plummeting. Shares in the nation’s largest chain, Regal Entertainment of Knoxville, Tenn., dropped 14 percent in the last month. Why are movie lovers shunning theaters? Industry experts cite reasons ranging from higher ticket prices to less interest in expensive 3-D films and a glut of family fare for people to choose from. There are also increasingly affordable home entertainment centers and high definition flat screen televisions, plus streaming services such as Netflix.

WEIGH IN:

Have you seen any movies in theaters this year, and if so, which ones? Do you prefer watching at home, especially if you have a flat screen TV? What would it take to spur people back into theaters? Lowering ticket prices, or just better movies?

Guest:

Ben Fritz, entertainment business writer, the Los Angeles Times


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