U.S. Movie Admissions Plunge 4.6% in 2019 Amid Box Office Decline

Dave McNary

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U.S. movie admissions slid 4.6% last year to 1.24 billion, the second lowest admissions number during the current century, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported.

North American box office for the year declined 4.1% to $11.4 billion, NATO said Friday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the end of the year by box office tracker Comscore. The decline came in spite of Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” generating $858 million  domestically, second only to the $936 million record by 2015’s “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.”

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The next four biggest 2019 titles all came from Disney — “The Lion King” with $543 million, “Toy Story 4” with $434 million, “Frozen 2” with $430 million and “Captain Marvel” with $426 million.

Overall ticket sales peaked in 2002 with 1.57 billion, then declined to 1.52 billion in 2003 and 1.48 billion in 2004. Those are still the highest admissions years over the past three decades. Admissions in 2017 were 1.236 billion — the lowest number since 1995.

The average 2019 ticket price edged up by a nickel to $9.16 with the fourth quarter average jumping to $9.37 from 2018’s $9.03.

The NATO report also showed that the biggest demographic jump in North American moviegoing took place in the under 10 group, with the share increasing from 6.1% to 7.5% of the total box office. Gains also came in the 10-12 group, up to 4.8% from 4.2%; the 18-24 group, rising from  26.2% to 27.2%; and the 24-34 group, going from 21% to 23.3%.

The 35-44 demographic saw the biggest decline, dropping from a 16.1% share to 14.5%.

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