Movie Industry Battling to Match 2013 Box Office

The race for 2014 domestic ticket sales to match full-year 2013 has come down to the final three weeks of the year. Last year, total ticket sales reached $10.9 billion. So far, sales this year sit at $9.6 billion. A few movies expected to be released soon and to be blockbusters likely will make the difference.

Box office sales have rebounded slightly from the recession. Ticket sales in 2012 rose 6.5% to $10.8 billion, and only crept up last year. The small advantage the industry had in 2013 was ticket prices that reached $8.13, compared to $7.96 in 2012. Ticket prices so far this year have averaged $8.12.

Only four movies have topped $250 million in sales this year: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “The LEGO Movie.” Most of the movies near the top of the list were sequels: “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “X Men: Days of Future Past,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This is proof of what many in the industry believe, that release of a new version of an old franchise is the least risky tactic in terms of a film’s sales and profits.

Only a handful of movies between now and the end of the year could be large box office contributors. These include “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and Sony’s controversial “The Interview.”

The upcoming weekend is not expected to do much to help the sprint toward the end of the year. Box Office Mojo experts predict:

Forecast (Dec. 12-14)
1. Exodus – $29 million
2. Mockingjay – $11 million (-50%)
3. Top Five – $8.2 million
4. Penguins – $7.1 million (-35%)

So, two of the four are older movies losing steam.

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The movie industry might be satisfied, even if the total falls short of last year. International sales have been particularly strong. The rapid rise of streaming services from Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) have added revenue, although what these companies will pay producers long term is still not clear.

Will 2014 match last year in total ticket sales? Maybe not, but being close enough may be enough for Hollywood.