erik lundegaard

Box Office Stat of the Day: Average Weekly Movie Attendance for the Last 100 Years

Via George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success: How much we loved movies (or not) in the first year of every decade:

Year U.S. Pop.* Avg. Movie Att. (Weekly)**
1910 92 26
1920 106 38
1930 123 90
1940 132 80
1950 151 60
1960 179 25
1970 203 17
1980 226 19
1990 248 23
2000 281 27

* in millions
** ditto

I believe Edward Jay Epstein, in his book The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, said '46 or '47 was the big year in terms of weekly movie attendance. 95 million? Something like that? After the war people wanted to do nothing so much as go into a dark theater for 90 minutes. Similar to 1930, though, on this chart.

What's surprising is the reversal since George Lucas' 1970s. I didn't know that. As a percentage of population, weekly attendance hasn't risen much, going from 8% in 1970 to 9% in 2000. But percentage of populaton shouldn't matter as much as asses in the seats, which, despite TV and VHS and video games, has risen 62%. And that's not the volume of our asses, either. Plus, these are merely domestic figures. Imagine the global numbers.

It'll be interesting to see what DVDs have wrought this past decade. Or what 3-D will do to get moviegoers back into the theaters this year. "I see you" indeed.

The beautifully refurbished Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Minn.


Posted at 07:21 AM on Fri. Mar 12, 2010 in category Movies - Box Office  
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