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2011 Movie Theater Turnout Lowest in 16 Years

Movie attendance hasn't been this low since 1995, according to a report released yesterday. And revenues at the box office have dropped more than 550 million dollars since last year.

Cars 2 characters board an airplane

The attendance count has dipped to 1.28 billion people since it reached an all-time high at 1.57 billion in 2002. That's a flux of over 250 million attendees.

According to projections, domestic box office revenues for Jan. 1-Dec. 31 will reach roughly $10.2 billion, down 3.6 percent from the $10.58 billion collected in 2010. That means an estimated 1.28 billion people went to the movies in 2011 -- the lowest turnout since 1995, when 1.211 billion people showed up at their local theaters.

The Hollywood Reporter

It might be instinctive to blame this on the poor (albeit recovering) state of the economy. But Hollywood almost never follows the same economic trends as other industries because a night out at the movies is perceived as a relatively cheap way to escape your problems for a couple hours. Ticket sales almost always go up during economic slumps.

Another factor may be the general consensus that this year was plagued with movie choices less exciting and appealing to movie goers. Even Pixar wasn't exempt from this problem with Cars 2 underperforming. Depending on which inflation-adjusted list you look at and the parameters you consider, Cars 2 ranks anywhere from 7th place to dead last compared to the box office earnings of the other eleven Pixar films.

Studios are also sweating a bit over a more permanent trend. With screen sizes expanding, pixel density increasing and surround sound systems becoming more commonplace in homes, the difference between the movie theater and home theater experiences is rapidly shrinking.

There were a couple little bright spots in the report, however. The 2011 holiday season is set to beat last year's record, thanks largely to Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Also, international box office revenues are up almost 8 percent over last year to set a new all-time high. Cars 2 did much better internationally than it did domestically.

2012 is also shaping up to be a guaranteed blockbuster year with sure hits lining up like: The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, John Carter, Men in Black III and of course, Brave.