Film Ticket Sales Fell 3.8% Last Year as 3-D Sank Post-‘Avatar’

Movie box-office revenue in the U.S. and Canada fell 3.8 percent last year to $10.2 billion, the first drop since 2005, as Hollywood failed to match the 2010 success of James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Worldwide sales rose 3.2 percent to $32.6 billion, with all regions outside the U.S. and Canada expanding, the Motion Picture Association of America said today in a report. China increased 35 percent to $2 billion, making that country second-largest internationally after Japan, at $2.3 billion.

“These numbers underscore the impact of movies on the global economy and the vitality of the film-watching experience around the world,” Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive of the Washington-based association, said in a statement.

This year is shaping up as a growth year, with U.S. sales up almost 14 percent, John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said in the statement.

Last year’s drop was led by a decline in revenue from 3-D films, which fell 18 percent to $1.8 billion, accounting for all of the shortfall. The drop wasn’t surprising given the outsize performance of the film “Avatar,” the MPAA said.

“Avatar,” released in December 2009, went on to collect a record $2.78 billion in worldwide tickets sales, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher.

Although more than two-thirds of U.S. and Canada residents attended a movie last year, half of industry sales came from the 10 percent of the population Hollywood studios call frequent moviegoers. Attendance also fell 4 percent, to 1.28 billion tickets sold. The average price rose 0.5 percent to $7.93 from $7.89 a year earlier.

The total number of feature films released increased 7.2 percent to 610 last year, while those from association members, the six major studios and their subsidiaries, was unchanged at 141, the MPAA said.

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