NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - One data point sums up 2017 for Hollywood film studios: moviegoing fell to the lowest level in a generation.
Admissions to theatres in the U.S and Canada slumped 5.8 per cent to 1.24 billion in 2017, the lowest attendance since 1992, according to estimates from researcher Box Office Mojo.
Rising ticket prices, up 3.2 per cent last year on average, kept revenue above US$11 billion (S$14 billion), but that's still down from the 2016 record.
Sequel fatigue, a weak line-up of films and diversions like Netflix kept audiences away. Moviegoers also griped about the cost of concessions like popcorn and soda too.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a bright spot for 2017, generating US$533.1 million by year-end domestically to be the No. 1 movie.
But even one of Hollywood's most-loved stories could not reverse the decline that started during the summer.
"The industry should be concerned if the metric falls again in 2018," said Geetha Ranganathan, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.
"Especially with a stronger film slate for this year, fewer moviegoers would be a warning sign that the industry may be in secular decline."
Besides falling attendance, theatre chains and major studios are consolidating.
In the past month, Cineworld Group agreed to buy Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 2 US chain, for US$3.6 billion, and Walt Disney reached a deal to buy the entertainment operations of 21st Century Fox, including the company's movie studio, for US$52.4 billion.
If there is a silver lining for investors, it's that better movies should deliver better returns this year, with an estimated box office haul of US$11.3 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
And the market is growing elsewhere - such as China- where local blockbusters trumped Hollywood movies to yield a record year with growing attendance.