Box Office Blues: A Slow Start for Movie Theaters in 2011

By: Stephen Babcock

TRF 235

2/9/11

Ever since I was a little kid I used to love going to the movies. The whole idea of my parents, my siblings, and I climbing in our car and driving to the local theater was always really exciting and fun. The lights of the building, the sounds of quiet chatter and popcorn popping, I loved everything about it.  As I grew into an adult, I still love going to the movies today. However, it seems that American audiences have a different opinion on going out to the movies.

For the beginning of this year, the movie industry has had its worst start since 1990 (Swaine 1). It is estimated that only seventy nine million film tickets have been sold so far for the month of January, which is the lowest in ten years (Swaine 1). January is usually a slow time in the entertainment industry after the blowout during the holiday season, but this has been worse than previous years. With 2010 also ending on a low note, this could easily be the cause for the slow start in 2011. So far the numbers show that American cinemas have grossed a total of $636.7 million, which is down thirty percent from last January’s profits of $933.9 million (Swaine 1). Movies like The Kings Speech and Black Swan seemed provide a glimmer of hope for the film industry in January but even with twelve Oscar nominations and five Oscar nominations respectively, these two juggernaut films cannot seem to carry the rest of the film industry and the loss of interest in going out to the cinema. There were also only 9 movies released in January compared to the average 14 of 15 in previous years (Gray 1). This hurts ticket sales because if movies are not being released, then no money can be made.

DVD sales and the pirating of movies online is a possible cause for the decline of attendance at the box office. Audiences seem much more content to stay in and watch a DVD or download a movie on their computer than brave the winter weather and hit the nearest multiplex (Swaine 1). With the effortlessness and ease of lying on the couch and never having to jump in the car, who would not want to just stay in and watch movies from home?

Another factor that may cause the decline of sales at the box office is the new boom in 3D televisions and the technology that follows them. 3D televisions offer a whole new feel to the home movie experience. Instead of paying extra at the box office, any consumer can pay for a new 3D television and get a similar experience to a movie theater at home. Companies like RealD, the company behind the 3D glasses and technology at the movie theater, is now partnering up with Samsung to include their technology into the brand’s 3D televisions (Graser 1). This pairing was created in hopes that this would draw more consumers to purchasing 3D TVs. Though sales were low for HDTV/3D TVs last year (around five percent), the brand is hopeful that this will increase the quality in their televisions and also give them a needed edge over competitors (Graser 1). Even the glasses for the 3D TVs are planning to change as well. Samsung and RealD plan on offering 3D glasses to television owners that are similar to the glasses used at the multiplex. These will be cheaper and will be just as effective as their movie theater counterparts (Graser 1). This will eliminate the $150 cost that is associated with the current glasses for the televisions on the market today. With all these advancements being made to the 3D TV technology, this could also be a factor to why the film industry is doing so poorly when it comes to ticket sales.

However, there is some good news for movie theaters in the 3D market. IMAX is having a great new year with the digital re-mastering of its films. According to the IMAX, “the company had a banner year with its digitally remastered films”, taking in a record $546 million for the year, more than twice 2009’s $270 million (IMDb.com).

Even for a movie fan like myself, the box office has a lot to keep up with when competing for my attention. From new TVs to DVD sales and piracy on the rise, it is easy to see why so many people are skipping out on the box office all together. Though the year is still young and IMAX films are doing well in theaters, it will be interesting to watch and see how the film industry handles this year with box office sales.

Works Cited

“2010 A Terrible Year For Movie Attendance.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

3 Jan. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/news/ni6605376/>.

Graser, Marc. “Samsung, RealD Team up for New 3D Display.” www.variety.com.

Variety, 4 Jan. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118029740>.

Gray, Brandon. “January Attendance Was a 20-Year Low.” Box Office Mojo. 8 Feb.

2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3071&p=s.htm>.

Swaine, John. “US Film Industry Has Worst January in 20 Years.” Www.telegraph.co.uk.

30 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/8291497/US-film-industry-has-worst-January-in-20-years.html>.

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