Hollywood’s Biggest Flop? Its Own Ticket Sales

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Robert De Niro, in a scene from "Little Fockers"

Glen Wilson / Universal Pictures / Everett

If you see Variety, don’t tell them about this because you’ll make them cry. But Hollywood’s box office ticket sales for 2010 have been announced and are anything but boffo.

The number slumped to 1.35 billion tickets in 2010, which is a 5.4% drop from 2009 and the lowest figure since 1.33 billion tickets were sold in 1996. But revenues remained high, going over the magical $10 billion mark for only the second time, due to rising ticket prices and 3D surcharges. Hollywood’s continuing obsession with its pushing of 3D might end up giving the industry some cause for concern if viewers feel that plot and great acting is being pushed aside in favor of (admittedly spectacular) effects.

(See TIME’s top 10 movies of 2010.)

To look at the numbers in more detail, we see that back in 1996, a movie ticket cost an average of $4.42; that has gone up over the ensuing years with a trip to the flicks costing $7.46 in 2009 to $7.85 last year, which is the largest single-year spike on record.

Grosses have fallen over the past eight weekends compared to the same two months in 2010, and this is arguably Hollywood’s slow season at the box office too as all the major Oscar contenders have to be released by December 31 in order to be eligible. Last weekend found Little Fockers, which is unlikely to be troubling Oscar come the ceremony next month, take the top spot for a second straight week with a relatively paltry $26.3 million.

It’s not all doom and gloom: TRON: Legacy took in a further $18.3 million this past weekend, making its three-week total $130.9 million. But the movie has had pretty much universally bad reviews, which could end up having an impact down the line as word of mouth tends to trump the wow factor that can come from 3D movies.

(See the best films of the 2010 holiday season.)

When you take into account the slim pickings on offer right now as well as increased access to the streaming of movies — which the studios themselves seem to be embracing — shorter windows from theatrical release to being available at home and the nagging feeling that audiences may never truly embrace 3D, if you work in the “business,” the trick over the next 12 months will be to reverse this course of action and get those all important bums back on seats. (via Consumerist)