As summer draws to an unofficial close this week, movie theaters and Hollywood are whining about the disappointing income year of 2019. Or at least that part of Hollywood that isn’t owned by the Walt Disney Co.
Movie ticket sales revenues for the summer, which comprises only a third of the year but usually more than 40 percent of ticket sales, are down two percent for the summer and down over six percent for the year.
Fewer people are going. Which means the ridiculously expensive and lucrative concession sales are down. Poor babies.
Here’s why: It’s the costs, stupid.
The National Association of Theater Owners, which represents the nation’s 40,313 movie screens, plus the 524 surviving drive-ins, claims the average ticket price is down a few pennies this year.
In 1948, when the most popular movies were “The Red Shoes” and “The Three Musketeers,” the average movie ticket price was 36 cents. Ha Ha, you say. But adjusted for inflation that would still be only $2.88 today, compared to the 2019 reality of a little over $9.
Theaters barely break even on ticket sales the first week after release. Movie makers skim that take then big-time. As a film run lengthens, theaters get more of the revenue. But with few exceptions, today’s movies rarely last more than three or four weeks, a fraction of the time it takes to film them.
Which is why concessions cost so much. That $10 bucket of popcorn actually costs only about 50 cents. As one result, although the number of screens has increased, many of us have cut back on movies, become more selective with how we waste our entertainment money.
And that’s what the data shows. Only one original summer movie — Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” — crossed the $100 million level. What about “Avengers: Endgame,” you say? That one jumped the gun, opening on April 26, one week before movie summer began.
Avengers, indeed, has done great, soaking up $858.2 million in the U.S and $1.94 billion overseas. That’s a worldwide haul of $2.8 billion, the most ever, not adjusted for inflation. As always, “Gone With the Wind” remains the top grossing film, adjusted.
Many summers, movie makers counter-program the mega-films, like TV networks scheduling a soapy movie against an NFL night game. But this summer those alternates got destroyed.
“Rocketman” did OK with $96 million. But “Long Shot”, “Stuber” and “Late Night” disappointed with only $30 million or less each.
“The summer of 2019 has been an interesting one with many tough lessons learned and conventional wisdom shattered,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore, an industry tracker.
What’s happening is moviegoers have become more discerning, going for the sure thing like the Rock and Jason Stratham in “Hobbs & Shaw,” the “Fast & Furious” spinoff, and not risking their money on lesser-known non-franchises.
Which brings us to Disney, the studio that’s produced the four highest-grossing movies of the year — Avengers, “Captain Marvel,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin.”
Plus Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which was produced by Disney’s Marvel Studios.
So far, Disney accounts for 35 percent of total U.S. box office revenue this year.
Oh, we neglected to mention, yet to come this year are “Frozen 2” in November and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” just before Christmas.