North American cinema attendence drops to lowest level in two decades

Iron Man

The number of people going to the cinema in North America has fallen to its lowest level in two decades, according to figures published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Around 1.26 billion filmgoers bought tickets to see a movie in 2014, the lowest number since 1995, when the figure was 1.21 billion. The disappointing return offers further evidence that the US, which makes up by far the largest portion of the North American box office, is likely to lose its position as the world’s largest film market to China before the end of the decade.

The average cost of a movie ticket was slightly up, from $8.13 in 2013 to $8.15 this year. But it is still estimated that overall revenue fell by 5% since 2013, to around $10.36bn – the biggest annual drop in nine years.

In China, latest studies suggest 830 million people bought tickets in 2014. That figure is up 34.5% on last year, and suggests that the country could overtake North America on tickets sold by 2017. Overall revenue stands at $4.77bn – still less than half of the North American total, but up by 36% on 2013.

The trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which underperformed at the US box office

The North American box office suffered in large part because of the failure of a number of blockbuster sequels to match the financial returns of their predecessors. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, released in May, took just $202m in the US and Canada, compared to $403m for Spider-Man in 2002, the year that the North American box office hit an all-time high with 1.57 billion people buying tickets.

June’s Transformers: Age of Extinction and November’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, also produced weaker results than predecessors. And Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, while performing superbly for a previously unheralded comic book property, with $332m in North America, could not hit the heights of the same studio’s The Avengers ($623m in 2012) or Iron Man 3 ($409m in 2013). 

It’s not all bad news, however. Next year sees the release of blockbuster shoo-ins such as The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the final instalment in The Hunger Games saga, and, at the tail end of the year, the new Star Wars effort The Force Awakens. Other films which might plunder the box office include the new Jurassic Park movie, Jurassic World, Pixar entries Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, Disney’s live action fairytale Cinderella and the much hyped sex drama Fifty Shades of Grey.

Powered by article was written by Ben Child, for on Friday 2nd January 2015 09.54 Europe/London

  • This article was amended on 2 January 2015. The original headline indicated that box office takings were at their lowest in 20 years. In fact it’s attendance figures that have hit that low. This has been corrected. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010