Movie attendance hit a 25-year low in the US in 2017, as viewers ‘flock to streaming in droves’

The Mummy 3 Universal final“The Mummy” was one of the many movies no one went to see in the US in 2017.Universal

  • The total number of movie tickets sold in 2017 was 1.239 billion.
  • That’s the lowest total since 1992.
  • Many are choosing to stay home and watch streaming content.

The numbers don’t lie. No one went to the movies in 2017.

Sure, you probably went to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Wonder Woman,” or maybe a Marvel movie, but the ticket totals are in and that’s the true barometer of the state of the exhibition business. And it’s not a pretty picture.

The total number of tickets sold at the domestic box office in 2017 was 1.239 billion, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a 5.8% drop compared to 2016. But it’s also the lowest total since 1992 (1.173 billion).

The domestic box office gross barely crossed the $11 billion mark this year with $11.065 billion (thanks to December releases “The Last Jedi” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”). That doesn’t look like a major drop, as it’s just 3% lower than the all-time best domestic mark hit last year ($11.377 billion), but that figure gets a lot of help from bloated ticket prices — not just for regular 2D movies (last year the average hovered just under $9), but also the expensive price to see movies on IMAX, RealD, and MX4D screens.

If you look at just the butts in the seats, the movie business needs a revamp.

“Studios are lagging behind for the very simple reason that they are relying on retreads and reboots, and most of those aren’t being well received,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst for Exhibitor Relations, told Business Insider.

Power Rangers“Power Rangers,” everyone skipped that one, too.Lionsgate

The top 10 domestic grossers of 2017 were all just that. And there were plenty released this year that underperformed as well (“Alien: Covenant,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” — though all three of these titles did much better overseas). Now pile on top of that titles that were supposed to launch new franchises for years to come but ended up being DOA (“The Mummy,” “Power Rangers”), and you have a lot of releases in the multiplex this year that were full of empty seats.

So instead of going to the movies, audiences stayed home and watched what was on streaming services.

“Audiences are continuing to flock to streaming in droves for challenging content and that doesn’t look to change in 2018, or the near future,” Bock said. “The studios are up against the wall, and the next few years they’ll have to produce a plethora of quality films to win back favor with audiences.”

Or they could do what’s been common in Hollywood for 100-plus years: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

With Disney’s announcement last summer that it will soon launch its own streaming service, more studios could do the same.

We may truly be at the moment where the moviegoing experience drastically changes forever.

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