US Movie Ticket Sales -46% in 2023 from 21 Years Ago: AMC and the Movie Theater Meltdown

Americans have changed how they watch movies. They watch more than ever, but at home.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Only 852 million movie tickets were sold in 2023, down by 46% from the peak year 2002 (1.85 billion tickets), so that was 21 years ago, and down by 31% from 2019 (1.23 billion tickets), despite the one-weekend wonder in July of “Barbenheimer” – the simultaneous theatrical release of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

In 2023, there was no more lockdown, and people crammed into restaurants, airplanes, cruise ships, and Taylor Swift concerts. But streaming had risen to the next level, and people were watching movies at home. That had long been the trend. Before streaming, technologies for watching high-definition movies at home, such as DVD and Blu-ray, ate into ticket sales. But during the pandemic, streaming gained momentum in quantum leaps (ticket data via movie data provider The Numbers).

This 46% decline in ticket sales over 21 years comes despite a 17% increase of the US population over the same period.

On a per-capita basis, ticket sales plunged by 54% in 21 years, from an average of 5.5 tickets per person per year in 2002, to just 2.5 tickets per person per year in 2023:

Over the past two decades, movie theaters have responded to this structural decline with big price increases – AMC is now asking $18.49 for one adult at its AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco – thereby speeding up the structural decline?

They also upgraded their theaters with big comfortable seats – such as the “AMC signature recliners” – and in some places offer real food, beer, and wine, trying to create an atmosphere of “experience.” But ticket sales just kept plunging over the years.

But with rising ticket prices, revenues in dollars rose until 2019. In 2023, they were back to 2005 levels, with the total box office of $5.3 billion, according to The Numbers:

What matters to movie theaters these days are blockbusters. The hype surrounding blockbusters still brings people to theaters – hence the strategy of “blockbusterization.” The result is a few blockbusters that studios and theater chains promote with huge fanfare, and that the media jump all over, amid declining overall ticket sales.

In 2023, there were a few blockbusters. Barbie and Oppenheimer opened on the same weekend, a strategic decision that multiplied the hype in the media and the phenomenon was nicknamed Barbenheimer.

So here are the top 10-grossing movies in 2023, according to data by The Numbers. Barbie sold 60.4 million tickets, and that was good. But by comparison, in 2019, Avengers: Endgame sold 93.7 million tickets.

Top Grossing Movies of 2023 Released Distributor Tickets, millions Gross $ million
1 Barbie Jul-2023 Warner Bros. 60.4 $636
2 The Super Mario Bros. Movie Apr-2023 Universal 54.6 $575
3 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Jun-2023 Sony Pictures 36.2 $381
4 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 May-2023 Walt Disney 34.1 $359
5 Oppenheimer Jul-2023 Universal 31.0 $326
6 The Little Mermaid May-2023 Walt Disney 28.3 $298
7 Avatar: The Way of Water Dec-2022 20th Century 26.9 $283
8 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Feb-2023 Walt Disney 20.4 $215
9 John Wick: Chapter 4 Mar-2023 Lionsgate 17.8 $187
10 Sound of Freedom Jul-2023 Angel Studios 17.5 $184

AMC and the Movie Theater Meltdown.

Movie theaters – like the formerly symbiotic shopping malls – have come under heavy pressure years ago from the internet.

For brick-and-mortar retail, particularly the kinds of stores that populate malls, the killer is ecommerce. Americans changed how they shop. So far, gas stations, grocery stores, and auto dealers, which account for about half of total retail sales, have largely been spared. But the other 50% is getting crushed.

We’ve documented this since 2016, under the category of what we call the Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown: The innumerable bankruptcies of retail chains, from Sears Holding on down; the debt defaults by malls; the zombie malls; the bankruptcies by mall REITs; the closings of tens of thousands of stores; the losses taken by holders of retail Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS), the worst sector of CRE years before the pandemic, etc.

And movie theaters are part of this meltdown for two reasons:

  • Many multiplexes are situated in malls, and as the mall goes, so does the multiplex.
  • Cinemas have gotten clobbered at first by high-definition disc-based technologies, and then by streaming which made a quantum leap during the pandemic.

The two biggest cinema chains in the US, AMC and Regal, have been closing theaters for years, starting well before the pandemic. Regal’s parent, Cineworld, filed for bankruptcy in 2022.

AMC escaped a bankruptcy filing so far because it was able to raise new money by selling new shares in huge waves, by hook or crook, to the meme-stock crowd. When it couldn’t get shareholder approval to sell more shares, it came up with the ruse of the APEs (AMC Preferred Equity units) in August 2022 as a back door to issuing more shares without shareholder approval.

With the stock price having collapsed by August 2023, AMC completed a 10-to-1 reverse stock split, where 10 shares became 1 share, and the price of each share briefly multiplied by 10 as a result of the reverse stock split, before further collapsing. And then AMC sold even more shares, and the stock collapsed further.

Someone should make a movie out of this. But there are no victims. AMC sold those shares to the meme-stock jockeys, who were powered by what we’ve come to call “consensual hallucination,” eagerly participating in the trade that was so much fun.

And the stock [AMC] keeps collapsing. It has long been enshrined in our pantheon of Imploded Stocks. Today, AMC’s shares dipped to $4.48, down by 99.4% from its meme-stock peak in June 2021, and down by 97% from its reverse-stock-split-adjusted IPO price (data via YCharts):

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  135 comments for “US Movie Ticket Sales -46% in 2023 from 21 Years Ago: AMC and the Movie Theater Meltdown

  1. Einhal says:

    I’ve said many times that the advent of 75 inch TVs for the home plus 7.1 sound systems has hastened the movie theater’s demise. Sure, there are still some people who like the “experience” of a large screen in a theater, but the technology available in the home makes it much less of an advantage in relative terms.

    When I was a little kid, the biggest anyone had at home was a 32 incher.

    Now many people have 85 inches. Crazy.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      Well I don’t know how old you are, but when I was a little kid… color TV was somewhat new. And as for remotes… forget about it!

      • Keith says:

        As a little kid, werent you the remote. :)

        • Harvey Mushman says:

          Haha, yes I was. I was also the youngest of 3 kids. So I felt very important when I first got that job!

      • John Overington says:

        Ooooh! you’re lucky! Color tv? In our house, we couldn’t even afford electricity, never mind even a radio. Our dad ….

        • Clete says:

          You had a house?? We lived in a box, with a 13″ B&W TV.

          Who’s next?

        • Cas127 says:

          Clete…you had a box?!

          You lucky b……

          And a tv?!

          We had shadow puppets by candlelight.

          (And…we had to make the candle. Fire? Two sticks rubbed together).

        • Danno says:

          We only had a mirror to entertain ourselves..

      • CCCB says:

        Some movies have to be seen on a big screen. Went to “Ferrari” recently at a cineplex here in Miami and loved it.

        Other, just aren’t available to stream. Saw “Borromini and Bernini” at a small local indie theater and loved it. It was sold out. Went for a bite and a drink at a restaurant after. I’d forgotten how enjoyable GOOD movies are.

        The problem is most movies suck and are wayyyy to long.

    • Leo says:

      Well, I could barely sit through Barbie, glad I was streaming and not in a Theater. Loved Mario but could not even finish Avatar 2.

      Many 2023 movies are good reflection of decreasing collective IQ.

      • Lili Von Schtupp says:


        Of the fine few things I actually enjoy while living in an uppity area, the art house theaters are high on the list. Would much rather see a foreign film at The Jacob Burns Center than some vapid CGI monstrosity in any of the dead/dying malls.

        Still, there are some great movies in the pipeline if you have more than 2 brain cells to rub together. Looking forward to Heat 2 (the book was phenomenal), Dust Bunny, and The Promised Land to name a few. Not blockbusters, but a far cry from superheros in spandex at least.

        • Bandon says:

          Eh, I don’t know. I kind of liked “The Boys”. On a side note, I haven’t set foot in a movie theater in probably 15 years. The appeal of it faded off when a crazy person with Joker hair shot the place up and killed a bunch of people.

      • elbowwilham says:

        I agree. Barbie was very boring. I did enjoy the new mission impossible though. I don’t know why that didn’t do better.

    • A. Gomez says:

      agree we have the same system with a sonos surround sound. We can stop play and go to the rest room, make fresh popcorn and with a recliner it’s just like being in the movies but keeping about $50 in our pocket.

    • eg says:

      The bigger screens and premium sound systems certainly do enhance the home theatre experience. The plethora of streaming options plus the comforts of home (the lounger; your own kitchen and bar and your own washroom) along with the ability to pause and rewind if necessary simply render the theatre inferior in almost every respect.
      And as I get older I find myself increasingly reliant upon closed captioning.

      I’m probably never going to a movie theatre again and I can’t say that I miss it.

      • Degobah Smith says:

        I don’t think subtitles are a “getting older” thing. Many younger (and some older) “actors” today just chew their lines and get away with it. Who knows why. Subtitles are standard for us for all newer movies and shows, however, interestingly, rarely if ever needed for older movies. Go figure.

        Also, we’ve not been to a movie theater to see a new movie in years. We do go to the old Lucas Theater here in Savannah to see classics once in a while, so I guess that counts.

        • Tankster says:

          Subtitles are also needed because streaming doesn’t align mouth actions with words. It’s annoying to the max. I can’t even stand to watch the lips move, it’s like Clutch Cargo…

      • Volvo P-1800 says:

        In that case I’d encourage you to watch movies from other (non-English-speaking) countries. The best movie experiences I’ve had in the last few years were “Canola” (from Korea), “The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina, so much better than the botched remake starring Julia Roberts), “Sweet Bean” (Japan) and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (France).

    • Bigc says:

      70 inch on sale at costco in canada this week $600.
      Love costco

    • Turtle says:

      Every screen is like a movie theater screen if you sit close enough. We watch movies in bed on a 15″ MacBook Pro.

      By the way, if 85″ isn’t good enough for you, get your own projector. Theaters don’t have a monopoly on these. My brother has two rows of luxury theater style recliners in his living room and a popcorn maker.

      Neither of us have been to the movies in maybe a decade. Don’t miss the sticky bathroom floor or people who won’t shut up.

    • Slickfish says:

      I priced out a small theatre in our basement and the moderately priced 85” tv for 1700 is the biggest expense depending on how much I spend on the seats. Assuming I’m finishing this area with a any tv at all and a couch , I’m in for an extra 4,000 IF I get 6 reclining leather seats with USB adapters built in and another $800 for heated seats. Haven’t decided yet, but that is within reach for a lot of people who have the space.

    • Motorcycle Guy says:

      “Over the past two decades, movie theaters have responded to this structural decline with big price increases – AMC is now asking $18.49 for one adult at its AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco. ”

      I now live in the Philippines and at the current exchange rate, the ticket price is just under $5.
      I’ve seen Napoleon, Oppenheimer, the latest Mission Impossible and The Bee Keeper in the theater. The theaters here are typically in SM City shopping malls (still a thing here) and they are very nice theaters.

  2. Xavier Caveat says:

    The Great Depression killed vaudeville, Covid killed going to the movies.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      It would be great if some of those empty movie theaters could be repurposed for live music performances. But, they will most likely be bulldozed.

      • P. Hutchinson says:

        In San Francisco the landmarked movie house Castro Theater has been leased to Another Planet. They want to remove the interior seats and use temporary seating and/or standing room for music concerts and other. In true San Francisco fashion, people are trying to stop this from happening. But whatever happens at least the theater should still be around.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Some of the old neighborhood theaters (every commercial strip seems like it has one or two) were converted into somethings else. For example, the old Alhambra cinema on Polk is now gym. But those old cinemas were killed by the multiplexes many years ago.

      • Prof. Emeritus says:

        Music performances come with a lot of sweat, jumping around on stage and quick movement of crowds. There are a lot of safety standards to be met, architecturally cinemas are far from ideal locations for concerts. Too much cost-cutting was involved in the design of your average multiplex.

        • Bill Bull says:

          Fun is illegal in this U.S.A. unless it’s hard drugs here in OR.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          “Too much cost-cutting was involved in the design of your average multiplex.”

          The Castro is not a multiplex. It is a beautiful 100-year-old theater. It’s a SF historic landmark. Which is why everyone is fighting over what to do with it.

          In terms of costs, doing anything with a building this old, and bringing it up to modern standards, would cost a lot of money, I’d guess.

      • Candyman says:

        Oh…how about affordable housing?

        • CrazyDoc says:

          You can turn them into Escape Room complexes, they seem pretty popular experiences

    • Blake says:

      Long term, the trend appears to be going down, but short term (years, not tens of years), it appears theater ticket sales may climb for a bit yet. If you believe the covid dip recovery will come back up to reach the downward trend line….

      • Wolf Richter says:

        2023 was the year of revenge spending on services – travels, restaurants, cruises, movies, concerts, etc. I would be surprised if more tickets are sold in 2024 than in 2023.

        • I forgot what my name was before says:

          Especially since the strikes delayed a lot of 2024 releases. Everyone in Hwood was excited about what Barbenheimer did, but you can’t build up excitement for seeing things in theaters and then have a long dry spell.

          Btw, the studios could have given on day 1 everything that they ended up giving by the end of the strikes. They brought this on themselves and the whole town. Idiots.

        • Gooberville Smack says:

          With Furiousa: A Mad Max Saga, Gladiator 2, Alien Romulus, a new Quiet Day, Deadpool 3, Beetlejuice 2, the Joker sequel, Nosferatu, and a new Lord of the Rings: the War of the Rohirrim all coming out in 2024, I’ll take that bet any day Wolf.

          Added bonus the Wolf Man will also be released. (Not a financial documentary). 2024 is going to crush it at the box office.

    • bulfinch says:

      Eh. I’m still waiting for talkies to blow over.

      • Clete says:

        It would be interesting to see your take on National Cinemedia and its competitors in the theater advertising business.

  3. anon says:

    It is much more pleasant to watch a movie at home on a 50” flat screen TV than it is at a movie theater.

    No bathroom lines. Snacks are cheaper. You’re not stuck in your seat during coming attractions. No one is constantly checking their cell phone. If you miss some of the dialogue you can rewind to go back to hear it.

    I do miss the crowds during some spectacular movies. The original Star Wars movie was gfeat to see in a crowded movie theatre. Multiple times!

  4. P. Hutchinson says:

    My husband and I saw Oppenheimer twice (once in 70 MM and again in IMAX 70 MM). We also saw Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning (which was OK) , Napoleon (which was pretty bad) and Ferrari (OK but disappointing).

    We like going to the theater and a lot of other retirees like it too. But they need to make more movies that people actually want to see. Argylle even looks terrible from the previews. Pixar has been making stuff everybody hates. Marvel films aren’t as popular as they used to be.

    Expecting blockbusters to make up for a general lack of interest may not be the best strategy.

    AMC gives out cheaper tickets on Tuesdays and free stuff but we still don’t want to go.

    • Z33 says:

      Agreed. I’m in my 30s and like going to the theaters and most recently Ferrari. I’ve been going less over the years as for me the quality of movies coming out is just not there. I gave up on Marvel around Black Widow/Shang Chi…just getting to be too much. I prefer IMAX (the real ones, like 50 foot tall screen) and last saw Top Gun 2 on it and no home setup will compare to that…too bad not many movies are made for that type of experience.

    • Blake says:

      Agreed. I like going to the movies, it’s something you can do as a couple, etc. not super expensive, nice atmosphere, etc. However the movies are no good since covid. Seems like Netflix/Amazon have all the budget and the stuff going to the theaters has really gone downhill

      • Eider says:

        I’m in my late 30s. The spouse and I haven’t gone to a movie theater since Alice and Wonderland (w/ Depp). Not worth it. Maybe the spawn is missing out on something, but streaming is better for all of us.

        LSS, we didn’t contribute to this crash. We just lost interest a long time ago. We didn’t even have internet at the house for a few years after we last saw a movie in theater.

      • Seba says:

        One of the very few things me and my baby sis have in common is movies, so over the years we’d do that on occasion to actually spend some time together. For me it’s a sad development that people don’t even want to leave the house because they have a 70″ screen and 9.1 surround or whatever.

        I can’t blame them though, prices continually go up especially at concession and the movie quality has gone way downhill. Studios seem comfortable only to spend on films where adults dress up in Halloween costumes and fly around in the sky shooting lasers out of their eyes, I guess that’s the easiest sell to a global market, but not really my thing. Streaming services have more interesting stuff, but then I’d have to sit at home, so I end up not watching anything.

        I don’t see how movie theaters get out of this death spiral of increasing prices and losing customers while studios pump the same old tired stories because they made money on them yesteryear.

        • Eider says:

          Yes. The 70″ screen with surround sound…
          How does a person assume that is median?
          Streaming killed the cinema.

          Using the cinema to stay connected with family is it’s future purpose.

          I tie flies for money when I have a spare moment and choose music over bs podcasts/loud movies. Have kids. It changes perspective.

    • Cold in the Midwest says:

      Agreed P. Hutchinson. The quality of films being made today is definitely a factor in the decline of theaters.

      I saw an interview with Sylvester Stallone a while ago and he made an interesting comment. He said the movie “Rocky” would not be made today. The reason is that Stallone wrote the script and insisted on playing the part himself.

      The studio initially wanted to buy the script from Stallone and use a big-name actor to play the part of Rocky. Stallone was a relatively unknown entity at the time. But they proceeded to take a calculated risk and let Stallone play the part. Stallone argued that would not happen today.

      Today the studios appear to make numbers-based decisions only. The decision is not “how can we make a good film that also has a reasonable chance of being profitable?” It is “what is the easiest way to decrease the risk of making any film that loses money?”

      That questionable decision-making process accounts for the huge oversupply of the super-hero genre films and also sequel after sequel after sequel. They’ve beaten the Star Wars franchise to death with sequels. You could not pay me to go to the theater to watch one of those.

      • Kent says:

        Industry consolidation and monopoly. The two big theatre chains work with a few big producers to decide what gets created. You end up with like 20 guys deciding what everyone in the world will see. Killed rock music awhile back.

      • Warren G. Harding says:

        Stallone’s original script was terrible. In the original script Rocky throws the fight at the end.

        If not for the help of Henry Winkler ( the ‘Fonz’ ), the movie would never have been made.

    • JayBos says:

      I think AMC will make it – they have quite a bit of cash now and seem to be evolving with other revenue streams attaches to their brand (example: popcorn regularly sold out at Walmart/Amazon).

      Very interesting to watch – stock price shouldn’t be THIS low IMO- think there were some shorting shenanigans from Wall Street.

      I think blockbusters and “event” movies (Example: Taylor Swift concert and talks of showing sporting events/MMA etc.) could save this if management can execute.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        The reason why AMC has some cash now is because they sold a gazillion shares over the past few years, diluting their existing shareholders to death. And they’re continuing to sell shares to raise cash, and then they burn that cash in their operations. So that’s their business model: raise cash by selling shares, burn that cash, and then raise more cash by selling more shares, etc. etc. That’s a somewhat unique business model. They’re very effectively taking their shareholders to the cleaners while they can. I’m OK with that. They had it coming. It allows AMC to stay out of bankruptcy court and keep the theaters open, the ones that it didn’t close already.

        • Dubronik says:

          Sounds like a Zombie company.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          In don’t think any other company has gotten away with what AMC is doing — to constantly be able to raise new money this way. There is genius in that. Most companies would have filed for bankruptcy years ago.

        • Turtle says:

          Barnes & Noble must be doing the same thing.

    • Drew says:

      Every month my friends all ask ourselves if there’s a movie we’d like to see. We know we want to go see a movie in a theater before we even know what’s playing. Then we look at our options and decide nothing looks good. We have Dune marked on our calendars for March but haven’t been since Barbenheimmer

    • Tom says:

      You’re a retiree… it’s no surprise you don’t like Pixar. You’re hardly their target market (by any stretch of the imagination). Illumination and DreamWorks are more up our alley.

      I may be alone on an island here, but the franchise movies were the death of the theater for me. I’m not going to pay to watch the 6th iteration of Ironman, or the 7th iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy, or whatever Marvel flick is up now.

      Give us some actual storytelling and creativity and not a remake of something from the 80s that’s just getting re-hashed and I’ll consider it.

      • P. Hutchinson says:

        The last few Pixar movies have done poorly and that’s because parents aren’t interested in taking their kids to them. Retirees are hardly relevant to this issue.

  5. Kelly Perry says:

    Who needs Hollywood?
    Real life current events are more interesting than any fantasy.
    The drama and anticipation are better than imagination.
    Did you just now hear that huge cracking sound from the residential
    real estate dam?

    • Turtle says:

      News media is part of the entertainment industry, no doubt.

      I come here for entertainment. All this negativity is addicting.

  6. JoshWx says:

    When you can make all three floors of your house shake from your subwoofer with just an average home theater system, the writing is on the wall for movie theaters.

    The only thing really keeping the standard movie theater alive is the fact that many titles are being initially released as in-theater only. If there’s a movie you really want to watch, you’ll have to wait months for it to be available via streaming or disc. If all movies were released simultaneously via theater and streaming services, that would be game set match.

  7. Ken C says:

    We like Friday night date night at the movies, but if we didn’t have a local fancy-seat theatre that offers a great burger and craft beer, we wouldn’t go.

    • Turtle says:

      Maybe food can save the theater. Works for Barnes & Noble. AMC could start selling $150 Lego sets, too.

  8. Rico says:

    How can you not like going to the theater with the big screen, the popcorn and the seats. Dark, no distractions, getting out of the house, candy and other humans around.

    • josap says:

      The big screen is great, the sound is way too loud.
      The popcorn is ok but expensive, my recliner is more comfortable.
      We can easily make the living room dark, have candy on hand.
      If we want other humans around, we can invite friends or the neighbors over.
      The bathroom is just down the hall and we can pause the movie if needed.

    • Malthus says:

      “Other humans around” …scary

  9. Nick Kelly says:

    ‘Regal’s parent, Cineworld, filed for bankruptcy in 2022.’

    This was because it had agreed to buy Canada’s Cineplex, just before Covid. Cine tried a kind of ‘force majeure’ gambit to escape but as you would expect with these two giants, the contract was about a foot thick. It specifically ruled out any outs for diseases.

    Maybe Cineworld should have tried the defense that the whole C thing was a vastly overblown conspiracy by the Deep State. Lol.

  10. Debt-Free-Bubba says:

    Howdy Folks. Wish the Drive In movie theaters were still around too. I never cared what was showing there though……

    • Blake says:

      I think drive in movie theaters could make a bit of a comeback, if some were to open up. Somewhat hard to find them now

    • eg says:

      We still have a couple within about 20 klicks or so of here, but it’s been years since I bothered to go to one.

    • Herpderp says:

      There’s one near me! Always nice on a summer evening, has double showings too so you get to see two movies. I think it’s way more fun than a traditional theater.

    • Lili Von Schtupp says:

      Mercifully the one near us stayed open last I heard. Great for the kids, people even set up impromptu birthday parties there, double features for half the price of one movie at a theater. But certainly developers would much rather have the land to themselves.

    • Tankster says:

      I had a 4 door Chevy Impala in law school. Back seat fit my girlfriend, now wife of 40 years, and I lying down…

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      …oh, where art thou, Joe-Bob Briggs? (… ‘Communist Alert!’ preceding every report of another drive-in closure…).

      may we all find a better day.

  11. Glen says:

    Next, or already underway, is the collapse of many of the individual streaming services. It has turned into an almost TV like market except not all in one place. Paramount+ and some of the other ones are doomed to selling off their assets at some point. Apple TV is probably the best at collessing this and also creating good content but of course they can lose money on production but drive other parts of their primary business.

    • josap says:

      Agreed. Streaming is turning into cable tv. The current business model is subscription based. This applies to most things today.

      • HowNow says:

        The subscription model seems to me to be the step-child of the airline industry’s technique of parsing a service into smaller and smaller increments to boost profits. I imagine that at some point “flying coach” will be standing room only – you’ll have to upgrade to have a seat during a flight. Those flying at that level will have to rent the rope to tether themselves against the wall of the fuselage.

        • Candyman says:

          Now that is funny!

        • Clete says:

          Compared to squeezing my 6’5″ carcass into a coach seat, I’d gladly stand the whole way if there was enough headroom. In the past, when I had to fly coach for work, I would often befriend the stews and hang out in the galley.

  12. Nick Kelly says:

    Re: Oppenheimer. Don’t know what the flick said but at the time of Oppy’s appointment as project manager, the reaction varied from ‘not an obvious choice’ to concerned amazement. Too cerebral even for a theoretical physicist, interested in Eastern mysticism, not an engineering type and worst, family members who were actual communists.
    General Grove defended his choice saying that Oppenheimer knew lots about everything. With one disclaimer: ‘He knows nothing about sports’

    • Glen says:

      “May we all be judged by our associations,” however subjective they may be. I am sure I am not the first to famously quote that but can’t attribute appropriately.

    • Softtail Rider says:

      Currently reading the book. Not much of a movie fan. Think the last one I saw was Forrest Gump.

      • roddy6667 says:

        I started watching that movie, but when I realized that he was going to talk like that for the whole movie, I turned it off. There are entire states where everybody talks like that.

      • Happy1 says:

        The book is excellent!

    • elbowwilham says:

      I just watched Fat Man and Little Boy for the first time. I really enjoyed that movie in the comfort of my house with a 70″ TV, streaming for free. Haven’t seen the new Oppenheimer yet and really don’t have a burning desire.

    • Petunia says:

      I just watched Oppenheimer, at home, can’t get over how they had to have nudity and sex in a science film. I guess I just didn’t know what a stud Oppenheimer was. The degeneracy is nother reason why I don’t watch American films, total garbage.

      • P. Hutchinson says:

        There are a lot of complaints about Greta Gerwig being snubbed for not being nominated for Best Director. I liked Oppenheimer a lot but Nolan doesn’t seem to understand women and nobody mentions that.

        I already knew the Oppenheimer story so I was disgusted with the way Nolan characterized Jean Tatlock. The woman had problems–there’s some speculation that she was a lesbian which wasn’t OK at the time and that may have lead to her suicide. Nolan made her look stupid which she wasn’t. The scene in the bedroom where Oppenheimer just happens to open up the Bhagadvad Gita to the “I am become death” line was stupid too.

        Kitty Oppenheimer wasn’t treated much better. Emily Blunt was nominated for an Oscar but she really didn’t have that much to work with. I have no idea if she was jealous of Tatlock but the scene where a naked Tatlock sits on Oppenheimer’s lap was unnecessary and lame. I personally didn’t find it offensive but I could have done without it.

        I remember reading an article that said Oppenheimer had a weird sex life. Evidently, the man had affairs but that’s not unusual and, as you say, that’s really isn’t very relevant to a science film. When I saw that article I wondered if the writer had ever met a college professor. Oppenheimer seems fairly typical for many of those.

  13. DR_ECE_Prof_Researcher_FinancialWizard says:

    “A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage in multiple languages”
    A different interpretation here is that we can arrive at different conclusions from a picture — I see that the industry is in decline; we all know the reasons. But when we look at the historical averaged graphs minus the exogenous events, the decline seems gradual ( just by eyeballing, I get a TOTAL OF 13% (1400 to 1200 in first graph) from 1995-2019 – then pandemic plunge and hefty, speedy recovery which might take it to that same slope).
    But other factors makes future more bleak. We have revenge spending now that may not long; companies trying to give upscale experience might end up with faster cash burn What if folks stopped spending due to higher and higher service costs and expectations?
    The AMC chart is hilarious. Same thing is more probably in store for SMCI, NVDA (that appeared in the comments) etc.
    By the way, is the awaiting moderation is for all posts or for some special folks like me? I wrote a FB blog few years ago (after proper research) on our commercial yogurt Vs the ones traditionally made by eastern folks, especially, India (basically, here the liquid part with the whey protein gets removed — polluting the ground — leaving only Casein) and it got removed (2 years later) for cybersecurity reasons :)
    Big Bro everywhere!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      2023 was all about revenge spending on services — restaurants, cruises, travels, movies, concerts, etc. I would be surprised if ticket sales in 2024 exceed 2023.

      • Morbaine says:

        I imagine the writer’s strike will also be felt by the theatres in 2024/2025 as the pipeline from writing to premiere is a few years

  14. JeffD says:

    Did you mean down by 54% from 2002 rather than 46%?

  15. Not Sure says:

    I’m actually kind of shocked that ticket sales held up as well as they did until 2020. I’ve been in a movie theater maybe 4-5 times in the last decade. For me, price point matters (as the article points out). For example, Little Ceasar’s makes a pretty good pizza at $6, but it would be an unacceptable steaming pile of crap for $20. It’s not competitive against a higher quality pizza. At $6, it just has to be better than a frozen pizza. A movie theater has to compete with a 65″ TV and in-wall speakers & sub-woofer setup that I already own. At $5 or maybe even $10, it might be worth it sometimes. But at $20, a movie theater is an unacceptable steaming pile of crap. Little Ceasar’s gets lots of people in the door to buy low quality gut bombs because they keep the price down. Theaters sell mostly low-quality intellectual junk food… They should learn a thing or two from Little Ceasar’s.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      If all Americans were like me, movie ticket sales would have collapsed by 100% from 1995 through 2023; sales by department stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, sporting goods stores, book stores, furniture stores, etc. would have also collapsed by 100%. We moved all this online. We’re now moving some of our groceries and household supplies online. We still go to the gas station with our hybrid, but when we get an EV, we’ll even move that online, LOL.

      Thankfully, not every American is like us. Everyone likes something different, and some people still like going to the mall, and that’s a good thing.

      • Not Sure says:

        I could actually see the gas station business grow exponentially in the EV era, reconstituted as charging stations. We’re starting to hit a wall in terms of how fast current battery technology can take a charge due to physics. Housing growth has been heavy in the multi-unit category even out in the burbs, and all those apartment dwellers are going to need a place to charge their EVs. Figure that the charging station cycle time for EVs is something like 10-40X that of gasoline vehicles, we’re going to need a lot of charging stations to keep up. They’ll have convenience stores and eateries attached just like gas stations. It’ll be a great busines with a bored captive audience of potential impulse buyers each stuck there from 20 minutues to an hour+ depending on their charging needs.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          “We’re starting to hit a wall in terms of how fast current battery technology can take a charge due to physics.”

          No, we’re not “hitting the wall” at all. Physics is just fine. Check out the fast chargers they’re putting out there now for heavy trucks. This stuff is getting better every year. The limit isn’t physics.

          As people stop buying gasoline and start buying electricity for their vehicles, the gas stations lose business that isn’t coming back (selling gasoline, oil, fluids, etc.). Maybe they can find new businesses, such as putting a convenience store on the premise, or charging stations, or whatever, but the old business of selling gasoline is diminishing.

          So sure, you can use a gas station for charging EVs. And maybe some gas stations will try that. But…

          1. No one wants to own the land of an old gas station because the soil is heavily contaminated from the underground tanks, and it has to be remediated at a very high cost, and that’s a huge liability.

          2. It’s a lot cheaper to set up charging stations at a parking garage or parking lot where people are already naturally parking.

          3. Not having to drive to a gas station is one of the big benefits of an EV.

          4. Charging stations don’t need a lot of space, no building required, no staff, etc. Charging stations can be put where people normally park, at work, at apartment and condo buildings, at shopping center parking lots, at restaurant parking lots… The Walgreens down the street here has four charging stations in a corner of its parking lot.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      “…sweet Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Rico?!?…”.

      may we all find a better day (…and TCM remaining a pretty good value for cinema lovers…).

  16. Lori says:

    I recently saw Oppenheimer and The Zone of Interest at the AMC theater near me. Both were very good films that I wanted to see on the big screen. But the awful parking system in that shopping center has really put me off. You pay and then they ticket you anyway and you have to call to get the $30 ticket removed. How can businesses succeed when they make it so difficult?

    • ApartmentInvestor says:

      In many parts of the Bay Area there is a good chance your car will be broken into if you drive and park at the movies (a friend recently had his SUV broken into while at the movies in Redwood City)…

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        …gets me wondering if the large availability of cheap safety-glass breaking ‘escape tools’ (that exploit a fear of being trapped by your safety belts as your car sinks beneath the surface of that body of water you drove it into) exacerbates the ease of commiting this particular crime?

        may we all find a better day.

  17. Frostbitefalls says:

    “Somebody ought to make a movie out of this” LOL
    I enjoy the experience, but I’ve gone maybe twice in 20 years. Mostly because it’s garbage, partly because I’m too busy and it’s low on the totem pole. add in the nose bleed prices for the junk…. My cable bill seems to be running away with the prices too. Won’t be long before it’s high speed internet only. Don’t get me started on a professional sporting event. The theatres will soon be a memory only. Hope none of my retirement accounts were some of the recent AMC purchasers….

  18. Prof. Emeritus says:

    To be honest I’m actually impressed how well the cinema business handles post-COVID recovery, post-superhero movie era and the rise of streaming services all at the same time.

    If you’d tell me 10 years ago that there will be a world pandemic shutting down the whole entertainment biz and a shift from the all-conquering superhero genre towards biographies (mainly corporate-sponsored stuff) I’d have said that cinemas are doomed. Out of the 3 hurdles, streaming services were the biggest disappointment – nowadays all TV remote controls come with a Netflix button, yet they ‘only’ managed to get around ~240 million subscribers worldwide (~75 million in the US & Canada). Okay, it’s not bad for a paid service, but still, streaming had the opportunity to finish box office once and for all (like video killed the radio star), yet the quality of their own productions was so bad that everyone in Hollywood laughed on the floor.

    • DRM says:

      Well you need the cooperation of companies feeding studios feeding movie theaters for Netflix to have accomplished that. A sort of Golden age for Netflix was a few years ago when they were mostly the only streaming source around. Every significant movie released in theaters was available on Netflix 3-6 months later. Then these people decided Netflix was getting too much profit out of the arrangement and started all their own streaming outlets while trying to starve Netflix of content.

  19. dishonest says:

    Netflix and chill?

  20. Joe says:

    I used to be a movie goer but not anymore. Not because of the heavy price increase, it’s because the quality of the movies are utterly shocking rubbish. It’s like watching paint dry. So why would I bother to waste money and 2.5 – 3 hours watching a rehashed story over spilled with political agendas.

    • CSH says:

      Movies started to badly decline in quality in the 2000s and they’ve not gotten much better since then. Worse, actually. And the price of the theater experience has made it unattractive as well. That’s not to say I enjoy streaming; it’s a chiseler type of business, especially when the content these days is no good. I am one of those who, despite it doing well now, does not think it has a bright future. Disney thought they had billion dollar blockbusters forever with Marvel and look how that’s turning out.

  21. AK47 says:

    I’ll never understand how these executives are paid millions of dollars to make genius strategic decisions like “raise ticket prices” when volumes are already down, which further disincentivizes consumers, creating a negative feedback loop into bankruptcy. Mind-blowingly terrible decisions made by overpaid, out of touch executives.

    Focusing on the experiential might have been the right move, but most AMC theaters today are cesspools that look like they haven’t been cleaned in months. I guess at least they have semi-comfy reclining seats. PASS!

    • Sean Shasta says:

      @AK47: “Professional management” – that is, the executives have no skin in the game for the long-term. They are in it for the compensation and bonuses based on how the stock performs. Wall Street goes quarter-by-quarter. If they can show a bump in earnings and the stock rises, that is all they care about. And analysts do not have the tools to do a qualitative analysis of how some decisions can impact the company in the medium to long term.

      Going back to “professional management”, they mostly leave and get other lucrative management positions before the company crashes and burns. In the meantime, they rake in as much as they can.

      That explains the short-term orientation.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Sean S – this, for ‘murican bidness for too-many of my seven+ decades. (…probably no checkered flag, check, trophy or trophy girl at the end of a race to the bottom…).

        may we all find a better day.

      • eg says:

        It’s “I’ll be gone; you’ll be gone” all the way down …

  22. The Liberty Advocate says:

    I didn’t see anyone else make this point. Besides the salient points made of streaming services, ticket prices, and quality of movies reducing attendance at theaters, another point I think may be having an impact is the collapse of dating and a move to the hookup culture.

  23. elbowwilham says:

    They made a movie about Gamestop stock, similar to what happened with AMC, called Dumb Money. I haven’t seen it yet, but it has some good reviews.

  24. Gabby Cat says:

    We went from going to 12 movies a year to 1 a year due to the quality of the content. We switched to watching Hollywood to Anime from Japan, because honestly it is so much better. Reminds me of Hollywood from the 80&90. Good times!

  25. DDG says:

    It would be interesting to see your Movie Ticket graph adjusted for inflation and population growth. I bet that the ‘V’ bottom would be more of an elongated ‘U’.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “It would be interesting to see your Movie Ticket graph adjusted for … population growth.”


      Second chart from the top:

      “On a per-capita basis, ticket sales plunged by 54% in 21 years, from an average of 5.5 tickets per person per year in 2002, to just 2.5 tickets per person per year in 2023:”

  26. Nick Kelly says:

    Back in the day of motion pictures, who would have dreamt that in the near future the source ‘books’ would be comic books?

  27. Texas23 says:

    For me, the last time in a movie theater was 2002. Got some free tickets to see the first of the Spiderman movies.
    Now rarely watch the garbage hollyweird pumps out, even streaming. Some of their movie’s start out ok with a decent story but by the half way point it degrades to CGI car chases and slow motion sword fights not to mention all the “woke” propaganda.
    Now mostly stream sitcoms from the 90s.

  28. Sai it anit so says:

    Would be interested to see which REITs are holders of the theaters?

  29. cresus says:

    I used to go twice a week in Manhattan. Since the vaccine pass and the masking rules, I stopped going, and never went back. My favorite Chelsea theater never made it and closed. Good riddance.

  30. Misemeout says:

    If you have any gift cards for movie theaters, I would suggest using them before you become another unsecured creditor.

    • Glen says:

      Groupon too! I used to use it a lot and can’t even find something I would want to use my saved up Bucks for. Given they take a huge cut and little correlation exists to generating return business it isn’t a surprise. Going to be using up what I have then deleting my account.

  31. cb says:

    Wolf said: ” When it couldn’t get shareholder approval to sell more shares, it came up with the ruse of the APEs (AMC Preferred Equity units) in August 2022 as a back door to issuing more shares without shareholder approval.”
    This seems scary for any shareholder of any company. It sounds like fraud through a loophole. Do you have any idea how AMC accomplished this under the nose of the SEC?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      They got sued by some shareholders, and then there was a legal settlement that allowed them to do it, but they had to give plaintiffs some extra shares, and the whole thing moved forward. I don’t remember the details. It was pretty complicated.

  32. Phil from KC says:

    I have a great memory, my step-dad and me in Kansas City, downtown, the the 90s. My step saw Stan Durwood across the street. We were going to cross in the cross walk. They had met in the 50’s. My step-dad was doing audits when he was with Peat Marwick, in those days. It was very casual, and they chatted and caught up. A nice thing, and I am very grateful for being told by step-dad that everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. There were other folks in our living room, over the years. Some worth 250M in the 80s, and others pipe fitters. Spectrum. I was fortunate.

  33. ChrisFromGA says:

    One mall REIT even filed bankruptcy twice in 4 years!

    Somehow, Simon Property Group keeps truckin’ along. Maybe a “winner takes all” effect.

  34. LB says:

    I’ve read (who knows where) that at least in the past, movie audiences were typically teenagers and 20-somethings. I wonder if they have less disposable income now than years ago? When I was a teen, we’d hang at the mall, browse the poster stores, record stores, and see a movie before or after, basically making a day of it.

    Back when I was a pre-teen, I got in for 35 cents and my sis paid the adult rate of 75 cents (Saturday matinee).

  35. Desert Dweller says:

    Perhaps, if the studios produced better original movies versus just making crappy new franchise releases of dubious prior movies, more people would buy tickets? Seriously, who needs Fast and Furious 22?

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      DD – mebbe part of the problem is lack of a genuine addition to/blending/expansion of the ‘nine basic plots’ (in the words of my old lit prof.). Mix this with the enormous and archived volume of cinema produced since WWI, and the relative ease of repeatedly viewing its best efforts (particularly if one has a favorite genre), it may not be that difficult to understand why seemingly-stale (but reliably-selling) material continues to dominate screens of all sizes, everywhere (…and, the older you are, the more likely it is that a plot seems familiar…).

      may we all find a better day.

  36. Kenny Logouts says:

    25 years ago you needed to rent a DVD to get a decent home quality video.
    And CRT or rear projectors were still king. But DVD at 576i was still a muddy mess on genuinely big displays, vs todays 4k mega displays.

    Then decent hifi/speakers. A 5.1 system, or even a 2.1, was quite an investment in money and space vs a decent sound bar.

    A cinema back then was positively cheap for the amazing image and sound you got vs home setups.

    Fast forward to today and you can get pretty close with a few thousand simoleons on kit.
    You can make popcorn for about 1/20th the price, with a nice drink, a sofa, can pause it for a loo break, etc.

    Yet the price of the cinema today has rocketed. You get adverts, shafted on food costs, drinks, blah blah. You’re out about 4 or 5hrs to do a 2hr film. Limited choice of films etc.

    A home setup makes so much more sense I’m surprised cinemas still exist as they do.
    I’m sure the model can still work somehow but probably not at the scale it currently does using the business model it does.

  37. vvp says:

    I don’t quite think you are doing justice to the meme stock issue. It’s a weird cult at this point of deranged bag holders. “This is Financial Advice” by Folding Ideas catalogues this from the perspective of specifically GameStop but you can sub in AMC or Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s fascinating.

  38. danf51 says:

    I love going to the movies, but every year there is less and less produced that is worth seeing.

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