Did the overall box office haul of 2008 really top 2007's record-setting take of $9.62 billion? Well, apparently it depends on who you talk to.
Media by Numbers and Exhibitor Relations are both estimating that 2008 lost to 2007 by a margin of less than 1%.
So, is the cup half empty or is it half full? As always, it depends on your perspective.
It's certainly worth noting that Variety defines the year as "Jan. 2, 2008, through Jan. 1, 2009." THR, on the other hand, uses the Nielsen EDI system of tracking the first weekday of the year through through the last weekend.
The same inconsistencies occur when you look at the average price of a ticket in 2008. Box Office Mojo is estimating $7.08, Exhibitor Relations says $7.15 and Media By Numbers places it at $7.20. These numbers are just as important as the overall box office haul since all parties involved are in agreement that attendance is down in 2008. Depending on which average ticket price you use, that decline can be as low as 3% or as high as 5%.
Taking a more straightforward approach, the total box office haul from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008 (read: the traditional definition of a year) is $9,619,882,511 according to the authoritative source Rentrak. The same period of time in 2007 posted a $9,623,646,236 haul, which means that overall box office is down .04%. Not bad at all, considering that most media platforms such as television and the music industry would kill to have those kind of figures during these tough economic times.
Also, using those figures and a $7.10 ticket average (which is what B OXOFFICE.com has been using since November), the overall attendance is down 3.14%. Again, that's not exactly the end of the world considering the times we are living in.
The attendance trend is something that can be reversed. In fact, 2009 has two great assets for doing just that: 3D movies and sequels.
Other than The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, most of 2008's hits were original films. However, 2009 will offer up more high profile sequels, or franchise spin-offs, such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, New Moon, Fast & Furious, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs to name a few. These films encourage brand loyalty, which in turn could lead to a slight boost in overall attendance.
The 3D slate for 2009 is also very promising. Audiences will be more willing to catch a film in theatres if it is presented in 3D, considering that the technology for viewing a 3D movie at home is not on par with the theatre experience.
In the end, the inevitable ticket increase in 2009 will lead to another year of financial success even if attendance is down. The question is, at what point will movie theatres lose too much of their audiences due to the rise in tickets prices?
Once again, is the box office cup half empty or half full?