It's a preview of coming attractions that theaters don't want to see. 2017 continued a years-long trend of declining movie theater attendance, with ticket sales reaching a 24-year low, based on an estimate from the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). The decline in attendance comes as the average ticket price rose by 3.7 percent to nearly nine dollars.
Joshua Starnes, president of the Houston Film Critics Society, sees the numbers as a legitimate cause for concern. "We had a record number of films that opened nationwide--on 2,000 screens or more--and they grossed less than ten million dollars," he tells KTRH. "That meant mostly empty auditoriums for weeks and weeks...that's not a good sign."
As for what is behind the decline, that is harder to pin down. However, there are several factors, starting with those higher ticket prices, plus competition from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. "What we've mainly seen is a shift in how and why people go to the movies, because there are so many options for other entertainment," says Starnes.
Another issue facing the film industry is the growing backlash among conservative Americans against the liberal activism of Hollywood, particularly on issues like gun control.
But perhaps the biggest factor in declining theater attendance is the lack of quality, hit movies. "For this year specifically, the reason we had such low attendance was a bad summer," says Starnes. "Outside of Wonder Woman, there weren't a large number of films that did better than expected."
Whether Hollywood will learn from its mistakes remains to be seen. "Some people speculate that (the decline) could be the beginning of franchise fatigue and sequel fatigue," says Starnes. "If it is, we'll find out this year, because we're getting a record number of sequels this summer."