Nolte: U.S. Movie Ticket Sales Hit Near 25-Year Low

Clouds are shown over the iconic Hollywood sign Thursday Feb. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles. Southern California got an overnight soaking Thursday as residents prepared for a second, more powerful storm that could bring heavier rain and prompted fears of mudslides in communities along fire-scarred foothills. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
AP Photo/Nick Ut

Other than the year 2017, the number of movie tickets sold in the U.S. this year is the lowest since 1995.

Throughout last year, Americans purchased 1.244 billion movie admissions, which is five percent lower than last year and only a little higher than the number sold in 2017 — and 2017 is the worst year on record since 1995.

Admissions, obviously, are quite different from the box office gross, which is the number everyone watches throughout the year. The 2019 box office gross was pretty solid — $11.4 billion — down only four percent from 2018’s huge $11.88 billion.

Something that helped the 2019 gross stay afloat was a four percent jump in ticket prices, from an average of $9.16 to $9.37.

Grosses are one thing. The number of tickets sold is something entirely different; that’s the number that tells us how popular and influential movies are, and over the last 25 years, that number is going the wrong way.

Some perspective…

In 1995, the U.S. population sat at 265 million.

Today, the U.S. population is 330 million.

In other words, the U.S. population climbed by 20 percent between 1995 and 2019, and even with that massive increase 65 million more potential customers, ticket sales have stagnated.

Naturally, the sycophants in the entertainment media, like the far-left Deadline, are blaming everything and everyone but Hollywood. Get this… [emphasis added]:

Streaming and other leisure-time enticements appeared to take a bite out of movie ticket sales in 2019, with total admissions declining nearly 5% to 1.244 billion, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

Although the 2019 tally was slightly higher than the 1.236 billion recorded in 2017, the totals for both 2017 and 2019 rank as the worst years for movie ticket buying since 1995.

While NATO has adamantly insisted that the rise of streaming only stimulates more theatrical moviegoing, there has never been a year like 2019 in terms of the caliber of features mounted by digital players.

What a load of garbage.

Let’s be clear about something… Very, very clear…

“Streaming” is just another way to watch TV, and TV has been around for 70 years.

These “other leisure-time enticements” have also been around for going on 30 years.

Video games, home video, a hundred cable channels, the Internet, Internet porn, or whatever other nonsense Deadline wants to blame for ticket sales flat-lining, have all been around for at least two decades.

Over the last 25 or so years, there has been nothing new to tempt people away from the movies, but even with a pool of 60 million new American customers, Hollywood just had the second-worst ticket-buying season in a quarter century.

What’s more, and this has to be freaking the movie industry out more than anything else, 2019 was the perfect storm of movies, a year we are unlikely to ever see again…

The final Star Wars chapter.

The final Avengers chapter.

The final It chapter.

Toy Story 4

Frozen II

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Captain Marvel

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

Maleficent 2

Men in Black 4

Godzilla 2

Lego Movie 2

John Wick 3

How to Train Your Dragon 3

The Lion King



Jumanji 3

Rambo 5

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Terminator: Dark Fate

…and I’m missing a few.

We are talking about one massive franchise after another … and Hollywood still couldn’t juice ticket sales.

It would be one thing if the film industry itself was blaming this failure on unicorns like “Streaming and other leisure-time enticements,” but for the media to do it, for the institution that is supposed to report the truth — or at least suggest the truth — to do it… The corruption is just beyond the beyond.

Even funnier is Deadline attempting to blame lagging ticket sales on movies that premiered on streaming outlets (The Irishman, Marriage Story, etc.), as though there haven’t been made-for-TV movies since, oh, say, just after the Kennedy assassination.

How is the movie industry supposed to fix itself if the very institution charged with reporting on it keeps lying about what’s really going on?

Here are the facts…

To begin with, the movie biz has alienated half the American population. If Ronald McDonald ran around calling half the country a bunch Nazi, racist, ignorant, sexist Christian-tards, like Hollywood does traditional Americans, does Deadline believe that might-maybe-perhaps hurt hamburger sales over at McDonald’s?

Of course it would, but Deadline doesn’t believe the film industry’s spokespeople, the movie biz’s own Ronald McDonalds — Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen King, Meryl Streep, Jim Carrey, Mark Hamill, Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lena Dunham, Chris Evans (I could go on forever) — might have damaged the brand just a bit?

Speaking of politics, how about if every McDonald’s hamburger didn’t taste as good as it could because it was stuffed with something people find distasteful — like, oh, say, obnoxious politics? What if the enjoyment of the hamburger was lessened because the chef didn’t care if his special hurt the taste? You think that might hurt hamburgers sales?

And finally, what if the overall product just wasn’t very good anymore?

Are we really going to sit here and pretend — politics aside — the quality of movies hasn’t diminished over the past couple decades? If it’s not these over-stuffed, predictable, soul-numbing blockbusters, it’s pretentious indies.

We used to be surprised when we came out of a movie disappointed.

Now we’re pleasantly surprised when the movie doesn’t suck. I still can’t believe 2019 delivered five movies I actually loved (Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Joker, John Wick 3, The Irishman, Ford v. Ferrari).

Thirty years ago, however, in 1989, I loved The Abyss, Do the Right Thing, Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, Batman, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, When Harry Met Sally, The ‘burbs, Christmas Vacation, Field of Dreams, Parenthood, Glory, Road House, Black Rain, License to Kill, Pet Sematary, Back to the Future II, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Calm, Lethal Weapon 2, Lean on Me, Major League, Uncle Buck, and Drugstore Cowboy.

In fact, my wife and I loved Black Rain so much, we went to see it a second time while we were on our honeymoon.

That’s more than 20 movies, and over the years, I purchased all those movies on VHS, and then DVD, and now in hi-def — either Blu-ray or streaming — plus a few others I at least like enough to own (Sea of Love, UHF, Next of Kin, Star Trek V).

I might buy six to eight titles from 2019, a few of them only grudgingly as a completist (I’m looking at you Rise of Skywalker), and I consider this to be one of the better movie years in a long time.

Home video sales didn’t collapse for any other reason than the product sucks, and if the product sucks, people are going to buy fewer tickets.

But you just keep patting Hollywood on the head, Deadline. Keep patting the industry on the head and telling them none of this is their fault, and see what that does to improve your precious, little movie industry…


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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