The Brick & Mortar Meltdown at Movie Theaters. But a Few Movies Still Make it Big

Tickets are expensive. Alternatives are plentiful, convenient & cheap.

The year 2018 was a banner year for the movie theater industry in the US. The number of movie tickets sold jumped 9.8% from the prior year to 1.35 billion tickets, according to movie data provider The Numbers. It was the largest jump in the number of tickets sold going back to 1996. It was a massive triumph for the industry.

But ticket sales in the prior year, 2017, had been the worst since 1995. And that 9.8% jump in 2018 off those lows took ticket sales almost but not quite back to where they’d been in 2012. And they remained 15% below where they’d been in 2002; and remained below where they’d been in 1997:

In terms of per-capita ticket sales: During the record year 2002, with a US population of 288 million, 5.4 tickets were sold per capita. By banner year 2018, with a population of 327 million, this had dropped 24% to 4.1 tickets per capita. This is the brick-and-mortar meltdown for the movie theater industry which is gradually losing its battle against digital competition.

In terms of dollar sales, 2018 introduced a novel concept that hasn’t been tried in at least the past 22 years of the data set: No increase in the average ticket price!

Maybe someone finally figured out that if you keep jacking up prices, sooner or later people will migrate even more rapidly than they’re already doing to digital alternatives. The average ticket price remained at $8.97.

Depending on where people go to the movies, results may vary. For example, a typical movie at one of the AMCs in San Francisco might set you back about $14 a ticket. But there are “$5 Ticket Tuesdays” for members, and there are other discounts. In other parts of the country, movies are a much better deal. And so I can see an average ticket price across the US of $8.98 – I just can’t see it in a place like San Francisco.

If a family of four goes to the movies and pays the average ticket price, it’s going to cost $36, not including the costs of transportation, popcorn, and sodas. Compare this to a movie that this family can obtain digitally via numerous platforms and watch on a laptop or big-screen TV at home.

By the fact that ticket sales jumped 9.8% in 2018 from the prior year, as ticket prices remained flat, ticket revenues in dollars also increased 9.8% to an all-time record of $12.1 billion.

Even though the number of tickets sold in 2018 was down 15% from 2002, dollar sales were up 32%. This is because the average ticket price over the period had soared 54%, from $5.81 to $8.97. Hallelujah, inflation! In dollar terms, inflation covers up a lot of sins.

The chart below shows average ticket prices (red line, right scale) and dollar ticket revenues in billion dollars (black line, left scale):

But prices that have surged at this rate since 2002 could discourage a lot of potential movie-goers, particularly with so many cheaper alternatives available at home, and this could be partially responsible for the decline in the numbers of tickets sold, and for the plunge in per-capita ticket sales.

The big dollars are very concentrated. Of the top 10 grossing movies in 2018, Walt Disney had four. These four movies grossed $2.2 billion or about 18% of total ticket sales. Universal, the number two on the top-10 list was far behind, $686 million, or about 6% of total ticket sales (data via The Numbers; if the table gets clipped on your smartphone, hold the device in landscape position):

Rank Movie Distributor $ Millions Tickets millions
1 Black Panther Walt Disney 700 78.0
2 Avengers: Infinity War Walt Disney 679 75.7
3 Incredibles 2 Walt Disney 609 67.8
4 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Universal 417 46.5
5 Deadpool 2 20th Century Fox 325 36.2
6 Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Universal 270 30.1
7 Aquaman Warner Bros. 260 29.0
8 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Sony Pictures 236 26.3
9 Mission: Impossible—Fallout Paramount Pictures 220 24.5
10 Ant-Man and the Wasp Walt Disney 217 24.2

The table above shows that a company can still rake it in, as Walt Disney did, when it produces a few huge winners in a given year. People still go see movies. And in a year that has a few big winners, the whole industry looks better.

In 2017, the worst year in ticket sales since 1996, but helped by much higher ticket prices, the top four movies grossed $1.82 billion. In 2018, the top four grossed 32% more: $2.4 billion – or 20% of total ticket revenues.

Thus, whether the industry has a good year or a lousy year depends on just a handful of flicks, even as the industry is sinking deeper into its structural decline that saw per-capital ticket sales plunge 24% since 2002.

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  84 comments for “The Brick & Mortar Meltdown at Movie Theaters. But a Few Movies Still Make it Big

  1. Mary
    Jan 13, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Brick and mortal? Wald Disney?

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 11:28 am

      Yes, this is a repetitive Freudian typo that I’m by now infamous for. This time, it slipped elegantly into the headline for about 30 minutes.

      • Kasadour
        Jan 13, 2019 at 1:41 pm

        Dang it. I miss all the fan.

  2. 2banana
    Jan 13, 2019 at 10:42 am

    Maybe if Hollywood would stop producing movies that consistently push a liberal/progressive agenda…

    Who wants to pay all that money for a night out to be insulted…?

    • Prairies
      Jan 13, 2019 at 11:05 am

      This comment makes me think of the old song “You’re so vain”. The song is fitting for todays climate given everyone gets offended about everything. I rarely get insulted by a movie, unless Micheal Bay is involved. He ruins so many childhood memories in under 3 hour sessions.

      • Atu
        Jan 13, 2019 at 12:14 pm

        Old? Old???

        Actually I find that slightly offensive also to say that everyone gets offended by everything nowadays. We’re not all like that.

        Now I remember the days when there were no cinemas, this being a different region of the world where copyright was inexistent and censorship strict, as well as social activity of mixed nature – not because I am harking back a century or so. Our video business (remember vhs and betamax) would source the first pirate video released globally and have it shipped in. In the basement was an outfit of several tens of video players for mass recording, then to the shops. Competition with similar was intense, to be the first to release, then to provide quality version. Some first versions were literally from people who snuck a video recorder into a cinema, you would have people walking in front of the screen and sound of the audience.

        It was fun but corporate law eventually descended on the countries in question and big media outlets moved in for the spoil .

        Oh well, nothing like being part of the package I guess… and still they complain. I suppose with a captive audience quality isn’t that nescessary, you pay wherever you watch.

        • Gandalf
          Jan 15, 2019 at 3:38 pm

          Google “123moviesfree” and you will find the modern day digital streaming version of vhs pirating, including movie video copies made inside theaters from the screen. Make sure you have lots of adblockers and a good antivirus program onboard if you ever use this site though

      • Keith
        Jan 13, 2019 at 1:06 pm

        I think for many people it is less offense and more an annoyance. When I used to go to the movies, it was an escape and a break from the real world. It seems that these breaks are no longer allowed and political themes either get pumped into the movie, or the actors have been so over the top in their political views that it distracts from the movie’s narrative. I think that is the bigger issue.

        Another, as a 40+ person, it seems I have seen all the “original” movies and have no desire to see the remake. I wonder where the imagination and originality of Hollywood has gone. For now, it is Amazon and Netflix.

        • char
          Jan 13, 2019 at 7:39 pm

          My uncle complained about that too. That was 25 years ago. In reality i don’t think that there are that many original movies but it is not something you notice when you’re young

        • Mike G
          Jan 14, 2019 at 2:21 am

          Look at that Top 10. Endless formula comic book adaptations and umpteenth sequels just don’t do it for me.

        • Gandalf
          Jan 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm

          Political themes have always been a part of Hollywood movies. In the “good old days”, those themes were just part of the majority white American culture, whether deliberate or subconscious.

          “Gone with the Wind”, considered a classic in its time and a favorite of TV movie specials throughout the 70s has disappeared- its themes of glorifying the Ku Klux Klan, blacks-were-happier-as-slaves, the Confederacy as the heroic defender of Southern White Culture and Supremacy are …. REPUGNANT and RACIST today.

          All those Westerns, extolling the virtues of the plucky settlers and cowboys, fighting off the wild savages… er, Indians…, er, Native Americans… No, today we know that America was wide open for settlement and cattle ranching only because the Native Americans were driven off their land and nearly exterminated through disease, alcohol, and a century of warfare, and then herded into reservations of neglect and poverty

          So it’s not that Hollywood movies have all of a sudden gotten political. There’s just no way to tell any story without having a certain political point of view.

          The points of view of Hollywood movies have simply broadened to a vast diversity of viewpoints beyond that of White Bread America.

          If you’re not interested in exploring these points of view, then you are the one losing out.

      • MCH
        Jan 13, 2019 at 8:15 pm

        You know, movies today are like tricks, they’re for kids.

        Ha ha, seriously, who wants to watch old Bruce Willis shouting Yippeekiyay M*****r. Oh I suppose, there is always the option of watching Sense and Sensibility…

        That’s ok though, as long as the Millennials keep up their spending on Disney, I am happy… as a stockholder that is.

        • cp
          Jan 14, 2019 at 11:26 am

          *Trix are for kids (as in the cereal that poor desperate rabbit wasn’t allowed to eat for some unknown reason)

    • Harvey Darrow Cotton
      Jan 13, 2019 at 11:44 am

      Yeah, radicals like Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Zach Snyder, Brad Bird, Michael Bay, etc. It is not a structural decline because of streaming, the golden age of television, and enhanced home entertainment options that are affecting all live events like the liberal N.F.L. or progressive major league baseball. It’s left-wing politics because movie studio and theater executives have a Marxist disdain for profit…

    • Rory
      Jan 13, 2019 at 11:48 am

      Spot on. I guess that’s why Black Panther was the #1 movie this year 🤔

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 12:16 pm

      2banana,

      People are still watching these Hollywood movies — they’re just watching them more and more at home via the many platforms that are now available. This is about theater tickets, not the movies.

      • Paul Goldsmith
        Jan 13, 2019 at 6:41 pm

        Not sure if you have been to a movie lately at a newer theatre…but the technology…the seats…even reservations at some…and no matter how good your home theatre is…there is no comparison…

        • Jan 13, 2019 at 7:56 pm

          Paul Goldsmith,

          I actually LIKE going to the movies. If there is a movie we want to go see, we make an event out of it: Get a nice bite to eat and a glass of liquidity beforehand at a nearby place, then mosey over to the theater, and after the show, maybe get a set of tappas and some more liquidity, and we discuss the movie.

          But now we’re also watching stuff at home. Instead of going to the movies maybe 10-20 times a year, as I used to do, we go maybe 1-4 times a year.

        • Gadi
          Jan 14, 2019 at 1:23 pm

          hehe, I used to decide on going to the movies last minute. Now, with reserved seats, buying last minute gets me a bad seat, so I rarely go.

      • Sam
        Jan 14, 2019 at 1:23 am

        Services such as movie pass allowed me to see over 80 films in 2018. They lost hundreds of millions. So did other services. This may explain the surge. I can bet that 2019, when all you can eat options are no longer available at bargain basement prices, will result in new lows.

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      You mean superheroes and apocalypse?

    • California Bob
      Jan 13, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      ‘First Man’ was a low-key but patriotic movie, that did poorly at the box office. Did you go see it?

      • Sean
        Jan 13, 2019 at 9:59 pm

        No having the placing of the American flag in First Man made it a non starter for me.

      • George C
        Jan 14, 2019 at 6:39 am

        only middle aged and older people in the cinema where I was; I’m 50!

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      Those movies were all crafted for adolescent perma-pubescent males, so I hope it’s not just the political dogma that insults you. Anyway, as Wolf said, they’re raking in profits, so maybe that’s what people who seek out muscle-cartoons want these days.

    • William Ripskull
      Jan 16, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      I’m with you. Not insulted, just tired of liberals trying to push their warped agenda down everyone’s throats, both explicitly and implicitly.

  3. OlliBoy
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:21 am

    As pointed out above, the total cost for some snacks, sodas and tickets for a family shadows the experience.
    Everyone has a very large tv with good sound and access to some on-demand HD movie service.
    Actually, lots of people have XL tvs, beamers or entire rooms with beamers and sound systems. Compare that to pre-LCD tv days!
    I’d much rather invite friends over for a good movie and chat. Of course it saves lots of money, but it’s more the atmosphere of friendship and exchange, that I prefer. Then there is the effort of driving, parking and lining up for tickets, beverage and admittance. None of which is enjoyable in the least.
    Young folks go. Being out of parents home and maybe in the dark with your gf is worth it. But when parents are gone, they too prefer watching and socialising at home.
    I am not even getting into the sharp decrease in the quality of movies. Some series are better nowadays than most movies. These you can only enjoy at home.

    • Jeff
      Jan 14, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      Plus I have to insert industrial ear plugs the volume is so loud and sit through 20 minutes of movie trailers and ads.

  4. polistra
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:35 am

    As always, Wolf is the Graph Champion. Nobody else uses graphs so clearly and concisely to focus on the important points.

    • oldboy
      Jan 13, 2019 at 1:31 pm

      Ha. I read that as “Gray Champion” first time.

  5. Malthus
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:51 am

    …and 20 minutes of stupid commercials/warnings before the show
    …and the bright lights of cell phones during the show
    …and someone kicking the back of your seat

  6. Pavel
    Jan 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    One issue I think is the increasing (average) length of feature films. Go back 20 or 30 years and most movies were 90 mins or so, and exceptionally 2 hours or more. Nowadays it seems 2 hrs is the typical minimum and many clock in at 2.5 hours or longer.

    I finally watched “Black Panther” the other day in a friend’s flat on his big screen and it just seemed *endless* — as do most other superhero movies to me (nothing against “BP”, they are simply not my cup of tea). I’d hate to think of enduring that in a crowded cinema where I couldn’t stretch out (or make a trip to the bar!). Not to mention the enormous savings, as Wolf points out.

    My other main gripe with cinemas are the rude manners of many other customers. I may be an ageing curmudgeon but I think people generally are less well-behaved in public. Bah humbug :)

  7. Seen this all before, Bob
    Jan 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Hollywood is smart. They are targeting the late Boomer, Gen-X, Early Millennial kids.

    But Mom … Everyone in my class has seen .

    The only way to see it is in a theater or wait 3-6 months for a DVD when the kids aren’t talking about it anymore.

    I enjoy an occasional movie theater visit. But unlike Pre-TV, I consider it a luxury. When I was in High School, (Pre BlockBuster), the only way to see a movie without waiting years was to see it at a theater.

    We go to movies occasionally now without kids (See Deadpool II) but we have gone to more Broadway type plays at $50-$100/ticket than movies.

    BTW, 70″ TVs are affordable now. Samsung is upping the game with an upcoming 219″ TV. If I had a Wall that big, I’d consider it.

    • Ed
      Jan 13, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      If I sit 7 feet away from a 55″ TV I figure I’d have to sit 28 feet away from a 219″ TV. Insane. Maybe that huge screen is appropriate for a lecture hall or classroom.

      • polecat
        Jan 13, 2019 at 6:32 pm

        One better hope that such a giant screen doesn’t fly off the wall, and come crashing down (HULK .. SMASH !!*) during a big shaker, because then you’d be in living color … as in blood red ! assuming one was lounging close enough for those home theater shards to .. uh .. penetrate not-so-super flesh.

        *sorry .. I couldn’t resist …

  8. Rhonda
    Jan 13, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    I won’t go see a lot of these movies given the political stance that these hollyweirds come out with. I am not going to give my good hard earned money to them when they should just stick to making movies. Won’t watch any of these award shows either as I don’t care to hear them come out and praise Satan. I will go see the Christian movies that they come out with. I am not going to any movie that uses unnecessary foul language with all the words that you can use in life there is know need to use that language.

  9. QQQBall
    Jan 13, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    If you are not into 2-hour cartoons or super hero junk, what quality options were offered this past year? Hollywood is recycling movies – Girl With Dragon Tatoo did not need to be remade and how many remakes like Sabrina have they done? The coming wave is to redo male hero movies with a female lead. Sheesh!

    They are not losing that much on me. I am not into $8 popcorn and don’t drink sodas.

    • polecat
      Jan 13, 2019 at 6:51 pm

      I likes me a good drama, while in the comfort of my living room, so close to amenities, like the fridg .. and the pause button. Take the HBO series Game of Thrones .. it’s Fabulous !! It’s got everything ! Of course, I ONLY watch it for the great dialog ..

  10. IdahoPotato
    Jan 13, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    This, in my Luddite opinion, is a good thing.

    Both my grandmothers never ever ate popcorn and my paternal grandma tasted soda a couple of times and said it tasted weird. Between them all four grandparents of mine probably went to the theater to watch a movie less than half a dozen times.

    None owned a TV at home expect my paternal grandma who got one maybe when she was 55 years old.

    They led happy productive lives.

    If all the movie theaters in my neighborhood shut down, I certainly wouldn’t shed a tear.

    • polecat
      Jan 13, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Our local theater, of which there is only 1 in our berg, has, a I understand, instituted a new seating policy, whereby a patron has to pick a seat while paying BEFORE entering the main theater ..
      Now I ask you .. what’s the fun in That ??

      I may never visit there again if that’s the case, but it would be no great loss, as they show mostly run-of-the-mill dreck anyway. So, I guess that means driving the 40+ miles to a MUCH BETTER independent venue to see what are often better films.
      … oh, and did I mention that I can choose where I wish to sit, non-preemptively !! .. without the hassle of a control freakish low-common-demoninator big corp(se) theater chain ..

      • IdahoPotato
        Jan 14, 2019 at 12:43 pm

        I go to the family owned local theater where they play foreign films. Even better, they rent out foreign DVDs.

        I hate sitting in a theater (as does my hubby) so we simply eat dinner there (nice food and wine) and bring the DVD home.

        P.S.: I make awesome rosemary cayenne butter popcorn at home.

  11. Jan 13, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    The economic drop in the cost of graphics and animation has probably caught up with prices. a lot of their work is off shored, which could be problematic. You don’t need an attractive, athletic, well trained actor to do voice overs. Pretty soon they will be able to manufacture voice patterns. Algorithms will write screenplays, and leads us the end of all this, after they strip away content and muddle context, (the process) the screen is reduced to that of a fish bowl, or a national mood ring. Pop music is already environmental noise. The industry was once in front of it, now they follow, and the real entertainment is on FB. Is FB a confessional format? Privacy advocates deny it, the media requires it, Zuckerberg owns it.

  12. raxadian
    Jan 13, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I am still surprised movie theaters didn’t get their profit reduced by half once every medium income home had a VHS player ages ago.

    I guess the fact movies can be seen digitally while they are still shown theaters or shortly afterwards is what’s finally killing movie theaters abusive business.

    My parents and grandparents went to movie theaters with big and confortable seats and were snacks weren’t overpriced. And tickets weren’t so expensive.

    Me? I just saw things getting worse and worse since I was a kid. To the point I tend to eat before going to see a movie. And arrive earlier so I could pick my seat.

    And I haven’t go to see a movie in ages.

    Not all movie theaters are abusive but most are. So good riddance to a bad rubbish.

  13. Paulo
    Jan 13, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Who is Michael Bay? Who cares who Michael Bay is?

    I read through the above top ten list and did not see one movie that I would attend. There is too much reliance on computer generated special effects in movies these days, and I don’t mean the booms and bangs. It’s everything. If you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all. How many Mission Impossible iterations can one stand? Vice (Cheney Christian Bale) looks pretty good, though. Ant Man? B level on the Space Channel, at best. Transformers? Really?

    We’ve pretty much switched to BBC productions in our family using Netflix. Their detective series are superb. What does Hollywood offer? CSI jiggle dramas from 3 cities. Someone above mentioned Dragon Tattoo. The original dubbed movie was gripping. Hollywood version, we turned it off and read a book. Crap.

    Someone also mentioned manners at the movie theatre. “Cell phones”, is all I have to say about that. Screen lights bobbing around when idiots need a text fix. I know now why we moved to the boonies.

  14. Suzie Alcatrez
    Jan 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Wolf – what effect did MoviePass have on attendance?

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      In theory, it should have increased ticket sales since it massively subsidized those tickets with investor money and made those tickets a lot cheaper for subscribers. But MoviePass has been around for a few years, and ticket sales did not increase at all in 2017. Maybe they plunged less than they would have without it.

  15. Maximus Minimus
    Jan 13, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Wow. I am surprised, the movie industry hasn’t collapsed completely, yet. Thanks for the update on this shadow part of the economy. I just reminisced with a fried that the last time I was to a movie theatre was some 15 years ago.
    My experience? Immediately upon entry, I was assaulted by an rancid smell of burnt popcorn. The ticket price (discount Tuesday) was about 10 dollars, and had to sit through half an hour of loud movie-mercials. They couldn’t pay me enough to go back.
    From what I heard since; the picture got better, the story became duller.

  16. Steven Guttag
    Jan 13, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    I would like to see an experiment with a tent-pole type movie whereby the home release is delayed by AT LEAST 1-year from the theatrical release.

    A problem facing traditional cinemas is that the release window is so short, people decide which movies are “worthy” of a cinema experience rather than a home one. Back when home releases were a year or more away, the decision was not so cut and dried.

    Hollywood hurts itself with the short release windows too. Instead of getting a theatrical release with whatever revenue it can claim and THEN getting a home release, you often funnel that down to 1 release. Those that will go to the theatre and still obtain the movie (either physical media or via download) will still do that, even if they are separated by the theatrical release by a year or more. In fact, I’d suspect that they are more apt to want to see a movie they haven’t seen in over a year than one that they JUST saw.

    • Laura
      Jan 17, 2019 at 2:53 pm

      A theater chain moved out of their old location near us after building a large, new stadium-style seating theater not far away. A second run theater moved in, has kept the place clean and well-maintained, and recently raised their old $3 evening prices to $5 after installing new, comfy reclining chairs. Prior to that, I could buy tickets, and a large popcorn and drink for under $20.

      Given that those few movies that were on my family’s “want to see in a theater” list now show up at the “nice but cheap” theater usually within a couple of months after release, we have very little incentive to go catch them first run, unless it’s a movie we’re really excited about (1-3 per year).

      My thought after watching at least half to two thirds of the movies caught at the el cheapo theater is usually “Thank goodness I didn’t pay full price to watch that ……”.

  17. marc
    Jan 13, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    In my neighborhood tickets are insanely expensive ($17-20) . The new seats are however gigantic, and tilt like a first class cabin.
    We do have the bad neighborhood people coming down bothering everyone with loud noises, texts, rudeness etc… the same people that are now mandatory on screen, no matter what, whether on film or on commercials.
    That and the progressive extremism on every scene, every film, every commercial.
    It’s in your face really and hard to avoid unless you skip the movies completely.
    Which I do more and more. I even leave the show when it’s too overbearing.

    • monday1929
      Jan 17, 2019 at 3:43 pm

      Who are those “bad people”? Can you clarify? Do you mean teenagers?
      Do you think everyone here knows who you mean?

  18. RD Blakeslee
    Jan 13, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Old folks Like me don’t buy many movie tickets (in fact, I don’t buy any).

    “18-24 year-olds make up 10% of the US population and bought 16% of movie tickets. Those 60 and over are 21% of the population and bought only 13% of movie tickets in 2016.”

    https://www.mekkographics.com/american-moviegoers-by-age-and-ethnicity/

    It will take awhile, but I suspect the aging of our population will contribute its share of causing the eventual demise of that particular bricks and mortar retailer – the movie theater.

  19. Groucho
    Jan 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    I agree that the price of tickets and food at the theaters has become prohibitive for many people. Equally important, it seems to me is the poor quality of much of what is on offer. Cartoons and superheroes. Does anyone make movies for grown-ups anymore? I know that may be somewhat unfair and there are good movies around if you look for them but the “big” movies now seem to display a complete lack of imagination. One more thing; when I pay money to go to a theater and watch a movie I resent having to sit through 30 minutes of advertisements. I can fast forward through those at home.

  20. FlyBy
    Jan 13, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Meltdown, crash, crisis…
    It’s getting boring, Wolf.

    • Jan 13, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      “Brick-and-mortar meltdown” is a long-running theme on WOLF STREET. Read my article on the ecommerce boom v. the brick-and-mortar retail decline (I report on it quarterly), and brick-and-mortar retailer bankruptcies, including Sears, Toys R Us, Bon-Ton Stores, etc. which I cover as they happen. This theme will stick around for a while longer.

      • Jan 13, 2019 at 6:11 pm

        Can’t you ever write about a happy fun economy where everything’s rosy?

        Seriously though, fascinating shift. Considering the demographics and disposable income associated with these titles is another interesting dimension.

        • Gershon
          Jan 13, 2019 at 7:14 pm

          Can’t you ever write about a happy fun economy where everything’s rosy?

          In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s the job of our corporate media border collies as they try to herd the last of the retail investor muppets into Wall Street’s rigged casino where they can be fleeced at will. Wolf and a handful of other intrepid citizen journalists, on the other hand, have the freedom to write real news and real truth.

        • Jan 13, 2019 at 7:51 pm

          Yes, see my upcoming WOLF STREET REPORT later today. It will be about the brick-and-mortar holiday sales swoon, and about the boom in e-commerce.

          The e-commerce story is a “very happy fun” part of the economy “where everything’s rosy.” Well, not quite… but as close as I’m going to get :-]

          Many people under-appreciate just how well e-commerce is doing.

        • MCH
          Jan 13, 2019 at 8:23 pm

          @ Wolf

          Was that before or after the long lines at the returns department at all of those brick and mortars? Ha ha, I jest only a little here, but I was complaining that the Mrs had to go return about 30% of the stuff she bought online. Then I shut up when I got to Macy’s.

          I swear everyone in line was returning an Instapot along with a bunch of sweaters, jacket, etc. Looking at the amount of holiday stuff being returned. I was wondering how much of the inventory will get recycled through for a January sale or something. Heh heh. The funny thing is return policy makes it almost like the new stuff you bought might be from someone else’s purchase. Like a new version of regifting.

          I think i read somewhere that there was in excess of 8 to 10 billion pieces of clothing produced annually, or something like that insane amount. My first reaction to that, was, geez, how wasteful can humanity get. But then I moderated my reaction to. Geez, how wasteful can the first world part of humanity get.

        • HowNow
          Jan 14, 2019 at 10:28 am

          This is a reply to Gershon:
          Just want to compliment you on the exceptional metaphor – the border collies herding muppets into the market. Never a dull moment on “Wolf Street”. Loved it…

        • Laura
          Jan 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

          I generally avoid shopping malls, and on those rare occassions when I venture there, it’s usually with a specific item (or items) in mind. My normal approach is 1) find the item(s) I came for, 2) buy them if they meet my needs and expectations, 3) get the heck out of Dodge.

          Had to go to the nearest mall Tuesday evening for some items for my son’s upcoming trip. Crickets. There were just a handful of people who were not store employees to be found in the part of the mall we wandered through. Yet another restaurant, opened with high hopes, had succumbed to lack of customer traffic, and the Macy’s doors were closed when we cruised by around 8:30pm (after curiously checking online, they close at 8pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

          Maybe the place is hopping on the weekends, but when you think of what it takes to operate and maintain a massive space like that, along with all of the stores, parking lots, etc…yikes!

  21. Jan 13, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    These movies are all basically video games without a controller. Small wonder, since the video game industry thoroughly dwarfs the film industry.

  22. Hitchcock
    Jan 13, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Looking at that list of movies, the sad thing is that such a list is called a banner year.

    Out of that list of 10, I only had a vague inkling to see one of them. I didn’t see it in a theater. The movie was the latest of the ever declining Mission Impossible series. I’d give it a C- grade. I was watching the original TV shows recently, and for several seasons they are much better.

    Notice that there are few original ideas on the list. Most are based on Comic Books, with a couple of remakes of old ideas or stuff like M-I which seems like dead horse beaten and bloody but still staggering along.

    Along with the Brick and Mortal meltdown, there’s also the minor fact that Hollywood is now completely incapable of making a decent movie. One is far better off getting a DVD of an old Hitchcock or Bogart movie than wasting time and $14 (yikes!) on the junk now coming out of the Hollywood machine.

    • HowNow
      Jan 14, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Reminds me of the publishing world: As an editor… want to get a pink slip quickly? Publish great literary works.

  23. Bet
    Jan 13, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I have x amount of hours left in my life and am very picky how I spend them. Hollywood is run by corporations and hedge funds and have zero imaginations
    Give me another Inception , which got a standing ovation in a movie theater no less
    I hate the stupid insipid marvel super hero dreck. The one movie theater I do go to is Ipic. Lazy boys. Blankets. My own waitstaff
    Dinner. Free popcorn. And best of all. No iPhones or unwanted noise. Ect. I can enjoy the complete movie experience. Too bad I am now about 100 miles from the nearest one. Sad

    • RoseBud
      Jan 13, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      Check out Sonic The Hedge Hog, release later in 2019. My last movie theatre flick was Lala Land, with a special woman friend who loves Sunday matinees.

  24. polecat
    Jan 13, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Ever notice how the more recently produced American animated flicks, regardless of the story, or theme, almost always have the character diction/action/situation seem like they’ve come staight out of suburban So Cal … Big wishuponastar is a prime instigator of this kind of hackneyed ‘story telling’ .. although other studios do this as well. I guess it’s their way of trying to be hip and draw the younger crowd, but it makes for a rather aggravating experiance in my book. You don’t see this in, say, foreign Anime .. better stories, better humor, much better animation !! Overall, a more believable, and enjoyable, experiance ..

  25. sierra7
    Jan 13, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    If the movie industry depended on individuals like me for support they would all go hungry. Last movie I was dragged to was couple years ago; it was so bad that I was temped to leave several times but stayed to remain polite to my hosts. Noisy, rude people behind you, people slurping slop and so much more.
    And for those prices I’ll invest the money in better home equipment. Don’t get me wrong; I love good movies. With some kind of good story. My time line: When I went to movies in my early years prices: 10 cents regular; 25c to 50c for “lodges”…..upstairs seats that really rocked.
    I consider most American made movies pure “drek”. I scour Netflix for foreign ones and decent stories that do reflect more real life like “House of Cards” (which I’m just into the 3rd season).
    The last good movie I enjoyed was the original “Star Wars” I watched with my then oldest grandson when a child and is 28 today. “Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long, time!”
    I can’t imagine trying to take a whole family to a movie today with the $$$$ involved! In my day even though money was tight you could do it.
    Today: bad movies, junk food, and poorer health……go for it!!
    (Oh forgot; I did all my movie watching in SF, in a time far, far away in the past!)

    • Escher
      Jan 14, 2019 at 6:32 am

      House of cards went downhill rapidly after the 2nd season IMO.

  26. Keeper Hill
    Jan 13, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Many including myself are tired of Hollywood injecting their politics onto both the audience and their “art.” It’s a bigger part of it than you think.

  27. Eric
    Jan 13, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    I have a 60 inch TV with an android streaming device and I can watch most movies through many different apps, many before they reach theatres in America lol…

    China controls most of what hollywood produces nowadays. The movies are almost always released in China before America.

    • Keeper Hill
      Jan 13, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Correction, China steals what America produces before it comes out in America.

  28. Jan 13, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    The only movie list that really matters to me:
    “AFI’s 100 GREATEST AMERICAN FILMS OF ALL TIME”
    https://www.afi.com/100Years/movies10.aspx

    It seems that none of the top 10 best movies last year come remotely close to #100 on the AFI list: Ben Hur.

    • J Bank
      Jan 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      Someone needs to explain to me hot The Shining didn’t make that list but Titanic did.

  29. Gabe
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Two comments:

    1)
    What happened to 3D movies! Weren’t they supposed to draw more people into the theatres by offering a novel experience? For me it was a headache wearing those ridiculous glasses.. and the effect wasn’t really that great.. nevertheless 3D movies died for the ump-teenth time since the 1930s.. when they used red and blue filters.. how many times will Hollywood again try to fool consumers with 3D gimmicks? Gen Z and Beyond will surely be fooled as we were.

    2) the studios are realizing folks are avoiding the theaters in favor of waiting a few months to stream it at home for a fraction of the cost and as a response they are delaying the rental option for up to a year in order to Lewer people into buying the movie on iTunes or Amazon to offset their loss on this new consumption model. I fully expect to see the studios exploiting this model further as theater attendance dwindles. Expect the one time use rentals to be delayed as far out as possible to extract as much from full movie sales on streaming platforms. As well as the price of the full movie purchase price increased to $30 or more

  30. SocalJim
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Brick and mortar movie theaters? It is more than that. Add brick and mortar bars to the list. In fact, any brick and mortar singles spots are getting killed by Tinder type apps. To the under 20 crowd, why bother with movie theaters, and with the under 40 crowd, why bother with bars when Tinder has it all. Women have no reason to mingle with creeps anymore.

  31. Lisa Murphy
    Jan 14, 2019 at 12:51 am

    I’m late to this conversation but I’d just like to add – those new reclining seats they have in the Century theaters prompted me to go to the movies a couple more times than I usually do in the past year. They’re great. Also, prices were actually lower by a dollar from the year before.
    And one more thing — First Man was a terrific movie & just the sort of movie you want to see in the theater. That crap about not planting the flag at the end is absolutely stupid. This movie didn’t have a liberal or anti American agenda at all that I noticed. This was a very interesting story about Neil Armstrong and his personal journey. My favorite movie of the year, tied with The Green Book.

  32. George C
    Jan 14, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Well all I can say is that here in London in the UK prices have gone stratospheric. To take my five year old and his mum (ie. 3 of us) to see last year’s children blockbuster, on a Saturday early afternoon showing (ie. not evening peak time – and there was only us and 5 other at the showing!), in a suburb of London, cost £15 pounds each, with no discount for a 5 year old. That’s £45 before we even thought of buying the crazily priced ice-cream, drinks or pop corn – so it came to a cool £55, which in US$ must be more that $60! We have not repeated the experience again, which is very sad, since I grew up going to cinemas on saturday mornings/early afternoons.
    In the long run perhaps only those cinemas thaty are at the luxury end will survive. ie. even more expensive, but with better seats, alcoholic drinks and food served. The mass market will wither. I am now considering getting one of the big TVs or a projector.

  33. Rob
    Jan 14, 2019 at 7:15 am

    There cant be that many movies making a profit. I mean they get about 55% of box office revenues and now there is little DVD rental revenue. Those top 10 movies are making about 1.5-2.5x the cost, it must drop off a lot after that and most movies making a loss.

  34. doug
    Jan 14, 2019 at 8:23 am

    For many many decades, a haircut and a movie ticket have been about the same price. Still are I think…

  35. NoTheaterRich
    Jan 14, 2019 at 9:11 am

    In the last 20 years we have probably seen <10 movies in the theaters. Better to wait till redbox has the movie for $2.

  36. KGC
    Jan 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Movies make most of their money outside of the box office. Even movies that can’t draw a crowd can make money for years.

    i used to go to the movies a lot. I knew a lot of folks in the business, and had chances to do that myself. But I don’t go now, haven’t in years. The cost, lack of originality, and increasingly dumbed down story lines make me look elsewhere for entertainment.

    To top it all of with that stupid disclaimer at the beginning of every film about how what you’re being subjected to isn’t the actors, directors, producers, or studios beliefs of positions on any given subject is such a huge lie it’s impossible for me to watch what follows with anything but cynicism. Studios make movies that push their agendas just like everyone else involved. Which is why we have actors (and co.) making headlines with their beliefs, opinions, and lifestyle choices.

  37. ft
    Jan 14, 2019 at 11:50 am

    Movie theaters priced themselves out of my business way back in the mid seventies. I can count the number of times I’ve been since on part of one hand.

  38. Frugal in the Bay
    Jan 14, 2019 at 11:56 am

    This is slightly off topic. I used to work for a hedge fund that funded Hollywood movies. They would often say the movie funding was coming ‘off shore’ it was a colloquial term for laundered money at the firm. The firm generally didn’t care that much how much money was made or lost on a film they funded.

    How do these movies get financed?

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