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Summer Movie Box-Office Attendance Falls to Lowest Since 1997

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Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Summer movie attendance fell to the lowest level since 1997, while soaring ticket prices produced record revenue for Hollywood studios and theater owners.

The number of tickets sold from the first weekend of May through the U.S. Labor Day holiday is expected to drop 2.6 percent to 552 million, Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. That would be the lowest attendance since summer moviegoers bought 540.3 million tickets in 1997.

“The movies just didn’t excite people the way they needed to,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com Box-Office, said in an interview. “When you raise prices and perceive that quality goes down, you have a major problem.”

Summer box-office revenue will rise 2.4 percent to a record $4.35 billion in the U.S. and Canada as higher prices more than make up for the lower attendance, Hollywood.com estimates. The average ticket price will increase 5.1 percent to $7.88 from last year’s $7.50, the biggest gain since a 6.3 percent jump in 2000, Hollywood.com said.

Higher prices for 3-D movies including “Toy Story 3” and “Shrek Forever After” helped lift revenue. Theaters charge an extra $3 or more for three-dimensional showings. “Toy Story 3,” from Walt Disney Co., is the year’s top film so far with $405.7 million in U.S. sales, according to Box Office Mojo.com.

Studios released seven sequels this summer, fewer than the 10 that came out during the summer of 2009, according to Hollywood.com. This year, 13 films generated more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales, down from 15 a year earlier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net.

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