Movie Theater Attendance Has Hit A 24-Year-Low, And 2018 May Be Worse


2017 was a rough year for movies. If you weren’t a massive surprise hit, you were probably out and gone in two weeks with nobody noticing. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, it led to a year where admissions were down to levels not seen since the ’90s. And depending on your view of the film industry, 2018 may be a whole lot worse.

Attendance is important because theaters need butts in seats, not to watch movies. For all they care, you can bring air horns to the Paddington 2 screening. Increasingly, theaters need you to show up and buy snacks and beer, or they’re in serious trouble.

Everybody has their own theory, of course, as to why audiences are showing up to the movies less. Ticket prices rose to an average of nearly nine dollars, and, depending on who you ask, the quality of movie just wasn’t there. Variety, for example, seems to think it was a summer of lackluster titles:

NATO pointed to a summer shortfall without naming titles as the key reason for the declines. The summer saw several high-profile titles such as The Mummy, Baywatch, Transformers: the Last Knight, and The Dark Tower perform well under expectations.

The Wrap, meanwhile, pulled out bits that seem to find NATO arguing there simply aren’t enough movies, period:

“2017 highlighted once again the importance of a balanced, 52 week movie calendar. An unusually empty August accounted for half of summer 2017’s shortfall.”

And, in truth, there’s probably some validity to both arguments. People don’t go to the movies if there aren’t movies to see, of course, and bad word of mouth has dinged movies at the box office since there have been movies. But there are a few glaring problems with these theories, starting with blaming the quality of the movies themselves.