2017's Movie Ticket Sales Were The Lowest In 25 Years

We're still basking in the rejuvenating cleanse of the new year and looking forward to the future, but folks who work for major movie theater chains have to contend with a statistic today that's so sobering that it may shock that refreshing new year feeling right out of them. According to Box Office Mojo, movie ticket sales in 2017 were the lowest they've been since 1992. That means theaters sold fewer tickets last year than in the past 25 years – clearly a troubling trend for exhibitors. Will the films of 2018 continue that trend, or provide a much-needed uptick in sales?

The site reports that 1.239 billion movie tickets were sold between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, which is down from the 1.315 billion that were sold in 2016. The average number of tickets sold over the past 25 years is 1.422 billion, but it's not particularly surprising that the sheer number of ticket sales has decreased since the early '90s. There are far more entertainment options out there for consumers to choose from now than there were back then. (Just to give you a sense of how long ago we're talking about here, Aladdin was the biggest movie of the year in 1992.)

So how can theater chains combat this trend? Well, for starters they could stop putting off the inevitable and actually devote significant resources to coming up with ways to improve the theatrical experience for everyone. Whether that means hiring more staff to curb cell phone usage and excessive talking during movie screenings, revamping their rewards programs to give movie fans better incentive to come out to the theater, or thinking outside the box and innovating new ways to draw in a larger audience, theater owners should be willing to do whatever they can to get butts in seats right now to counteract this declining ticket sales trend.

Granted, the fault doesn't lie completely with the exhibitors. Studios are partially responsible for those numbers as well, since movie selection is obviously a key factor in getting people to the theaters. (Except for those people who go to the movies and decide what movie they're going to see once they arrive at the theater, which will always be bewildering to me.) It's become a common refrain to decry Hollywood's lack of originality and blame everything on sequels and reboots, but the two highest-grossing movies in U.S. theaters right now – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi – prove that it's not as easy as simply writing off all sequels and reboots. As usual, it comes down to execution, and if studios spend more time strategizing about how they can execute strong ideas for their 2018 releases that still need to be completed, the prospect of seeing high quality movies just might be enough for theaters to sell more tickets this year than they did in 2017.