Movie attendance for the summer of 2018 at the box office is the second worst in 25 years, reports the Hollywood Reporter.
For months now all we have been hearing about the box office is what a great season it has been, a record season, a comeback that proved all the doomsayers wrong who said America is falling out of love with going to the movies.
To a point, that remains true, but only if you look at the cold, hard numbers.
As far as money, the summer of 2018 is a record breaker, up +14 percent over 2017’s brutal summer, and the fifth best on record.
This success, though, is primarily due to ticket prices that jumped to an average $9.38 this year (I’d like to know where you can go to the movies for less than $11). Unfortunately, revenue and popularity are not the same thing, and when you divide the revenue by the ticket price you discover that only 430 million admissions were purchased, which is the second-worst since 1992.
And this is really, really, really bad news for a few reasons…
Let’s begin with the fact the American population has exploded by some 60 to 65 million people since 1992. With a bigger pool of customers, with some 65 million new customers, Hollywood is not growing its customer base. In fact, attendance is declining. This is a massive failure.
More people should mean an increase in sales by default, a jump in attendance without even trying. But Hollywood is so unpopular and polarizing, so loathed by so many (and for good reason), it cannot even grow a teensy-weensy with a booming population.
The home video business is even worse, in terrible shape, so it is not as if people are waiting to watch movies until they can watch them at home, because they are not.
What’s more, the box office pie is proving to be finite. You have a very few blockbusters gobbling up almost all of the revenue.
Finally, those blockbusters are all massive gambles that require massive worldwide hauls just to break even. And when just one goes horribly awry, like Solo: A Star Wars Story, the losses, not just with that particular title, but the overall franchise, are incalculable. A successful franchise is the rarest golden goose, is almost irreplaceable, and the loss of one is a terrifying prospect.
With under-performers and straight up flops such as The Mummy, The Dark Tower, Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates 5, King Arthur and Valerian, last summer was seen as a catastrophe. By comparison, with Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World 2, Mission: Impossible 5, The Meg, Ant-Man 2, and Crazy Rich Asians, this summer looked like it could not miss… And yet it has.
What has to be especially troubling for those who make a living in the movie business is that even with a nearly perfect summer revenue-wise in 2018 — meaning pretty much everything performed or over-performed, attendance still stunk. How often is Hollywood going to pull that inside straight again, how often will everything perform and over-perform again, and how bad is business going to be when everything fails to line up?