A recent Associated Press article by film critic David Germain reports that domestic film revenues in 2011 “lagged far behind 2010 receipts.” Indeed, according to Hollywood.com, last year’s projected revenues of $10.15 billion will represent a drop of 4% in year-to-year earnings. More troubling still, to theater owners, is the 4.8% decline in theater attendance, which marks a new 16-year low.
As someone who has been in love with film ever since I first watched the flickering image of Indiana Jones racing through jungles and deserts to defeat the plans of Adolph Hitler, as someone who has even taken a stab or two at selling a screenplay, I find myself wondering: why?
Is it simply a matter of cost? Have ticket prices finally soared too high? I’m doubtful. For while there is no doubt that tickets are increasingly expensive, Americans aren’t typically reticent to drop serious cash when it comes to entertainment. Consider the video gaming industry.
According to the NPD Business Group, in 2004, the video gaming industry brought in $9.9 billion in sales. In the same year, the movie industry experienced roughly equivalent sales of $9.4 billion. But six years later is a tale of two industries. The film industry had sales of $10.56 billion, while the video game industry sold approximately $18.6 billion in hardware and software combined. So as you can see, even after two straight “down years” in the video gaming industry – years in which all three major gaming consoles are at the end of their product cycle – the video game industry has doubled it sales over the past seven years, while the film industry has remained essentially flat-lined.
So this isn’t about the cost of a movie ticket, because when it comes to entertainment, Americans will spend money. So what do you think? Is it about the quality of the product itself? Is it about the emergence of affordable home theater experiences that can compete with movie houses? I don’t know. But as someone who is interested in film’s impact on culture, I’ll be very curious to see how Hollywood responds in the coming years.