North American attendance for 2010 is expected to drop about 4 percent, to 1.28 billion, according to Hollywood.com, which compiles box-office statistics. Revenue is projected to fall less than 1 percent, to $10.5 billion. It has been propped up by a 5 percent increase in the average ticket price, to $7.85, thanks to 3-D.Last January, I posted this chart from Deadline Hollywood:
If the numbers are correct,the number of tickets sold is lower than it has been in any year since 1999. Revenue is down as well, even with the average cost of a ticket rising from $7.46 to $7.85.
This implies that the bloom is off the 3-D rose. There have been more 3-D films released this year, yet fewer people are willing to pay to see them. While this doesn't imply the impending death of 3-D, it does imply that 3-D's novelty has worn off. Its revival was just a blip, not a sea change; it will no longer increase box office revenue on its own.
It also shows that Hollywood has gone too far in raising ticket prices. While it is understandable that ticket sales should fall during a recession, they have fallen lower than the earlier years of this recession and lower than they've been in more than a decade. Time will tell if this is a trend or just an aberration, but it is something that Hollywood should worry about. A downward trend in attendance is the last thing the film industry needs.