It's been clear for some weeks that the summer movie ticket sales would be flat or a little down compared with last year and the preliminary numbers bear that out.
This summer's films grossed $4.27 billion, down 2.84 percent from last year's $4.4 billion. Admissions were at 526 million, compared to 545 million tickets sold last year, a 3.56 percent drop, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co.
Of greater concern to Hollywood's movie industry is that this year's total continues an alarming trend. Movie ticket sales this year are down more than 100 million from the summer of 2002.
The fact that grosses and ticket sales were off isn't a surprise in a summer marked by a handful of blockbusters — "The Avengers," "Dark Knight Rises," "Ice Age: Continental Drift" and "Amazing Spider-Man" — but far more misfires.
But the ticket sales discrepancy between this summer and that of a decade ago – when there were 629 million admissions – will be a concern to studio executives.
The admissions number makes crystal clear that the grosses are being propped up by higher ticket prices, in particular for 3D and Imax screenings. The studios' greater focus on the foreign market is likely a factor in the domestic decline, too.