Even with massive hits like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast, 2017 ticket sales took a pretty big hit. So much so that last year is officially a 25-year low for the movie industry. While the box office declined a bit, it’s the actual number of ticket sales themselves that have suffered terribly over the last 12 months. With the final numbers tallied, 2017 ticket sales were the lowest they’ve been since 1992, when the top movie at the box office was Disney’s Aladdin, just to give an idea of just how long ago that was.
Theaters reported selling 1.239 billion tickets in 2017. That’s down from 1.315 billion in 2016. In 1992, theaters reported selling 1.173 billion, which is the last time we’ve seen numbers this low. One of the big differences now is that the average cost of a movie ticket is higher than it’s ever been, at $8.93 in 2017. That’s up nearly 30 cents per ticket, compared to the $8.65 average from 2016. Odds are, we’re going to see the average go up again in 2018, but will that lead to further decline in overall ticket sales?
The real question is, what’s to blame for the decline? As we’ve seen with movies like Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, IT and many others, even awards contenders like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, if you make a good movie, people will want to see it. But these days, people don’t necessarily have to see these movies in a theater. Much of that has to do with the meteoric rise of streaming services like Netflix, who is actually investing a great deal in original content and releasing movies directly to their subscribers. Netflix’s Bright, a movie that was slammed by critics, drew in millions of viewers, who didn’t have to pay a dime or get up off their couch to see it, as long as they have a Netflix subscription. Or a friend with one.
Netflix has already given the green light to Bright 2 and, with blockbuster movies now going straight to streaming services, Hollywood is going to have to find ways to bring more people to movie theaters. Services like MoviePass have emerged to try and work around higher ticket prices, but theater chains like AMC have rallied against such services, as they argue it makes it seem like distributors are charging too much for tickets. MoviePass has provided numbers and, though relatively minimal so far, they have shown that their service does help get more people to the theater.
So what’s the answer in 2018? It may not be all that simple, but those who enjoy the experience of going to a movie theater may be part of a slowly dying breed. Granted, movie theaters aren’t likely to ever go away, but it could become more niche and more expensive, as indicated by these numbers from Box Office Mojo.