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This year looks set to be the first in four years not to break records in terms of box office receipts, despite price hikes for IMAX and 3D movies. How did this happen – and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again next year?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, this year’s box office take is currently estimated to be 3% down on last year – the first fall for four years, despite tickets costing on average 4.7% more than they did in 2009. Obviously, that means that less people are going to the movies this year, but why?
It’s an especially curious idea, given that this was the year when movies in theaters moved more towards an experience that – as yet – can’t be replicated at home: a record number of releases were in 3D, and those tentpole movies that weren’t, were in IMAX. While smaller movies (That is to say, everything that doesn’t fancy itself as a blockbuster, summer or holiday) can pretty much offer a similar viewing experience on DVD, BluRay or the theater, more and more large-scale movies tried to offer a theater-going “experience” that made the movie – and seeing the movie in a theater as an “event.”
Is it just that this year’s crop of movies didn’t hit a chord with audiences? I can see that argument, to an extent – 2010 didn’t have an Avatar (A movie that single-handedly rescued last year from breaking the run of box office record years) or a Dark Knight, and the summer felt curiously quiet in terms of runaway hits, or even original material (Look at the top 10 for the year: Only Inception, Despicable Me and How To Train Your Dragon stand out as non-remakes or sequels). It’s been a year, it seems, of disappointment, whether it’s films flopping (The Last Airbender, Prince of Persia, The A Team, just to name three blockbusters that failed to bust blocks), disappointing in terms of quality (Those three examples again, but feel free to add Iron Man 2 and Clash of The Titans to that list, too) or just plain not getting the recognition they deserved (Both were critically acclaimed, I know, but I still feel like Scott Pilgrim and The Social Network should’ve been much, much bigger than they were).
With the exception of Iron Man and Harry Potter, it also felt like a year when the mega-franchises took a break. Next year already feels very different – if anything, too crowded – with the likes of a new Transformers, two new Marvel superhero movies (and X-Men: First Class!), Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens and the final Harry Potter all fighting for attention during the summer, but this year seemed like a weird gap year; it may have been necessary, but it definitely felt oddly… empty.
But I’ll put it to you, instead: Why are fewer people going to the cinema this year? And do you think it’s something that will change in 2011? Feel free to leave thoughts and theories in the comments, as ever.