2014 had a lot to offer moviegoers: Blockbuster sequels, challenging dramas, adventurous indies, and out there arthouse efforts. But one thing it didn’t have was the audience to see these films. According to early figures, purchased cinema tickets were at a two-decade low in 2014, with 1.26 billion sold in North America (the last time the number was that low was in 1994, when theater patrons bought 1.24 billion tickets). Granted, that’s still a lot of people eager for the big screen experience, but it seems a not insignificant portion of the population didn’t make the effort in 2014, and we’d reckon both studios and theater owners are concerned.
Seemingly surefire blockbusters like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (which earned over $1 billion worldwide), and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1” still raked in cash, but failed to earn as much as their predecessors at the domestic box office. Clearly, the foreign box office is becoming more and more important to the major studios, but even that good fortune will only last so long. So what’s the problem?
“We are a content-driven business, and we had our ups and downs this year,” Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman told THR. That’s a polite way of saying quality was a bit all over the place, and it’s hard to argue that. They had a string of flops like “Transcendence,” “Horrible Bosses 2,” and “Blended,” among others, and probably didn’t help themselves by pushing “Jupiter Ascending” from last summer to next month. But if it’s a content driven business, why is the content so unimaginative?
Hollywood’s biggest problem may be in oversaturating the market with sequels, remakes, and comic book movies (over 30 coming between now and 2020, hooray) and then milking audiences even more with the latest trend of two-part blockbuster series finales. But theater owners don’t get off the hook either, with every outing to the movies becoming costly to the point where you need a small bank loan to get some popcorn and a drink, and with lousy projection and rude audience members always a wildcard. With more and more options available online or on VOD, leaving the house to watch a movie becomes a less enticing endeavor.
That’s not to say we’ve given up on the big screen experience. It’s still the best way to see a movie, and one we’d pick that over any other method of watching a film, given the choice. But it seems audiences are no longer getting the experience they signed up for, at least not in 2014.
Did you go to the movies less in 2014? Why? Let us know below.