Box-Office Bust: Movie Attendance Hits 16-Year Low

Dec 28, 2011 7:00am
ht conan the barbarian ll 111227 wblog Box Office Bust: Movie Attendance Hits 16 Year Low

                                                                           Image Credit: Simon Varsano/Lionsgate

“Conan the Barbarian.” “Mars Needs Moms.” “Cowboys and Aliens.”

They were supposed to be the silver screen mega-hits of 2011. Instead, they are on the list of the year’s biggest flops. If you didn’t see them, you’re hardly alone.

Despite some big-name sequels, superstar lineups and multibillion-dollar investments from movie studios, 2011 was a tough year for Hollywood. Ticket sales are on pace to be a half a billion dollars behind last year. Attendance figures haven’t been this low since 1995.

“It’s a pretty tough year at the box office,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of Hollywood.com. “We’re ending 2011 on a whimper, not really a bang.”

Critics say there were too many family movies on the marquee that pushed out the teens and young adults who usually pack the theaters. Movies such as “Mars Needs Moms” cost Disney $150 million to make, but only sold $39 million in tickets.

And the long lineup of dark and depressing films might also have kept moviegoers such as Jane Viar at home. “There were several months where there just weren’t any good choices,” the Sacramento, Calif., resident said.

But both moviegoers and analysts agree the biggest factor in declining attendance is cost. Ticket prices continue to rise; moviegoers now pay an average of $7.89 per ticket, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

“Obviously when ticket prices go up it makes it harder for families to go to the movies,” Dergarabedian said. “And that hurts particularly in the holiday seasons.”

The availability of movies online, analysts say, is also hurting the industry’s bottom line. “There’s so many different ways to get content for the audience. They’re pulled in a million different directions,” Dergarabedian said. “That makes it a very competitive environment. The films have to be that much better otherwise audiences are going to do something else.”

Despite the low year-end figures, moviegoers spent nearly $10 billion on tickets in 2011, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles box office data. 

Here’s a list of the biggest flops of 2011.

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