Ticket rush: Film fans hand Hollywood record cash


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The big deal for Hollywood is not the
record $10.8 billion that studios took in domestically in 2012. It’s the
fact that the number of tickets sold went up for the first time in
three years.
Thanks to inflation, revenue generally rises in
Hollywood as admission prices climb each year. The real story is told in
tickets, whose sales have been on a general decline for a decade,
bottoming out in 2011 at 1.29 billion, their lowest level since 1995.
industry rebounded this year, with ticket sales projected to rise 5.6
percent to 1.36 billion by Dec. 31, according to box-office tracker
Hollywood.com. That’s still well below the modern peak of 1.6 billion
tickets sold in 2002, but in an age of cozy home theater setups and
endless entertainment gadgets, studio executives consider it a triumph
that they were able to put more butts in cinema seats this year than
"It is a victory, ultimately," said Don Harris, head of
distribution at Paramount Pictures. "If we deliver the product as an
industry that people want, they will want to get out there. Even though
you can sit at home and watch something on your large screen in
high-def, people want to get out."
Domestic revenue should finish
up nearly 6 percent from 2011’s $10.2 billion and top Hollywood’s
previous high of $10.6 billion set in 2009.
The year was led by a
pair of superhero sagas, Disney’s "The Avengers" with $623 million
domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide and the Warner Bros. Batman
finale "The Dark Knight Rises" with $448 million domestically and $1.1
billion worldwide. Sony’s James Bond adventure "Skyfall" is closing in
on the $1 billion mark globally, and the list of action and family-film
blockbusters includes "The Hunger Games," ”The Twilight Saga: Breaking
Dawn — Part Two," ”Ice Age: Continental Drift," ”Madagascar 3:
Europe’s Most Wanted," ”The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Brave."
television, movies were the biggest thing going, with ticket sales
estimated as high as 4 billion a year domestically in the 1930s and
Movie-going eroded steadily through the 1970s as people
stayed home with their small screens. The rise of videotape in the 1980s
further cut into business, followed by DVDs in the ’90s and big, cheap
flat-screen TVs in recent years. Today’s video games, mobile phones and
other portable devices also offer easy options to tramping out to a
movie theater.
It’s all been a continual drain on cinema business,
and cynics repeatedly predict the eventual demise of movie theaters.
Yet Hollywood fights back with new technology of its own, from digital
3-D to booming surround-sound to the clarity of images projected at
high-frame rates, which is being tested now with "The Lord of the Rings"

prelude "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," shown in select theaters
at 48 frames a second, double the standard speed.
For all of the
annoyances of theaters — parking, pricy concessions, sitting next to
strangers texting on their iPhones — cinemas still offer the biggest and
best way to see a movie.
"Every home has a kitchen, but you can’t
get into a good restaurant on Saturday night," said Dan Fellman, head
of distribution for Warner Bros. "People want to escape. That’s the
nature of society. The adult population just is not going to sit home
seven days a week, even though they have technology in their home that’s
certainly an improvement over what it was 10 years ago. People want to
get out of the house, and no matter what they throw in the face of
theatrical exhibition, it continues to perform at a strong level."
real-life violence at the movie theater didn’t turn audiences away.
Some moviegoers thought twice about heading to the cinema after a gunman
killed 12 people and injured 58 at a screening of "The Dark Knight
Rises" in Colorado last summer, but if there was any lull in attendance,
it was slight and temporary. Ticket sales went on a tear for most of
the fall.
While domestic revenues inch upward most years largely
because of inflation, the real growth areas have been overseas, where
more and more fans are eager for the next Hollywood blockbuster.
business generally used to account for less than half of a studio
film’s overall receipts. Films now often do two or even three times as
much business overseas as they do domestically. Some movies that were
duds with U.S. audiences, such as "Battleship" and "John Carter,"
wind up being $200 million hits with overseas crowds.
finishing a good year or a bad one, Hollywood executives always look
ahead to better days, insisting that the next crop of blockbusters will
be bigger than ever. The same goes this time as studio bosses hype their
2013 lineup, which includes the latest "Iron Man," ”Star Trek,"
”Hunger Games" and "Thor" installments, the Superman tale "Man
Steel" and the second chapter in "The Hobbit" trilogy.
Twelve months from now, they hope to be talking about another revenue record topping
this year’s $10.8 billion.
been saying we’re going to hit that $11 billion level for about three
years now," said Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst for
Hollywood.com. "Next year I think is the year we actually do it."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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