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NATO Chief: Glut of R-Ratings Caused Box-Office Downturn

But the exhibition group predicts a rebound as the temperatures rise

The box office's doldrums can be blamed on a lack of diversity, National Association of Theatre Owners President and CEO John Fithian told reporters Thursday.

In particular, Fithian said that a lack of family films and a glut of violent action movies contributed to sluggish ticket sales.

Through last weekend the domestic box office was down 12.9 percent to roughly $1.9 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.

"The diversity of the movie slate in first quarter was just not there," Fithian said.

"We had a lot of movies rated R that included a lot of violence," he added. "And those movies can sell, but not when that’s all you’ve got.”

That may be the case, but moviegoers have been able to resist the charms of big-budget confections that are more family-friendly like "Jack the Giant Slayer," which has grossed a lackluster $55 million stateside despite carrying a $195 million production budget. 

Fithian said he was "pretty confident" about the rest of the year, but said that it would be difficult to match last spring's success, mainly because "The Hunger Games" proved to be such a blockbuster. He also pointed out that films like "The Lorax" and "The Vow" got last year off to a roaring start, while this one has kicked off with a whimper.

"It was the first quarter in 2012 that was out of control record breaking," he said.

However, with a slate of films that includes "Man of Steel" and "The Hangover Part III," Fithian said the box office should have some more life as the temperatures rise. He noted that last summer was actually down 2.5 percent from the previous year.

The box office may have a hard time matching 2012's blockbuster holiday season. The popularity of films like "The Hobbit" and "Skyfall" helped ring the year out on a festive note, with the box office up a massive 16 percent.

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