The month of October has seen the worst box office returns in 10 years. The Hollywood Reporter states that ticket sales will just miss reaching $560 million. The last time ticket sales in October have not reached $600 million, or even $700 million in sales, was 2007.
How could this be? Have ticket sales finally reached too far? A bad time of year? Or was it simply just a down month for movies? One would think that October is just like any other month for movies; however, that is not the case.
In order to understand box office sales, one needs to recognize all the factors that go into buying a movie ticket.
First the movie needs to be good. There needs to be a reason for a viewer to pick a specific movie and go see it.
Second, the price. At opening weekend, ticket prices nowadays can range anywhere from $5 to $25, depending on the movie, the theater, and if its enhanced or not—things like 3D, IMAX, or what have you.
The reason that this October was so bad for movie sales was that it is historically a down month for movie sales, AND the movies in theaters were not very good, on top of ticket sales already reaching a fever pitch.
Let’s start with the month of October. It is usually a much lower month for ticket sales as it is. The best times for movies to release are during the summer and winter months.
The summer brings blockbusters such as “The Avengers” whereas the winter, also known as awards season, brings movies like “Star Wars” and other awards contenders.
October is right in the middle of these two phases. To add to the October slump, September had some high profile releases this year such as “It” and “Kingsman 2”, which boosted the month to record sales.
On the other side, November kicks off awards season with two superhero smashes, “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Justice League.” October just really is a bad month to release a movie.
The next factor is the one that drives viewers crazy: ticket prices. According to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the average movie ticket price in 2016 was $8.43. Every year prior, the movie ticket price jumped anywhere from 5 cents a year to 50 cents a year. Just over 20 years ago, the average movie ticket price was half of what it is now.
Movies are getting more and more expensive to make, so they need to charge more to meet the profits they are striving for. On top of that, in recent years movie theaters have also upgraded their services, requiring an upcharge for the individual theaters as well.
Some viewers simply do not want to pay upwards of ten dollars to go see a movie in a theater when they could wait a few months to see it on services like Netflix and Amazon.
Lastly, this October had such low returns because, quite frankly, the movies were bad.
The beginning of October saw the high profile release of “Blade Runner: 2049.” The studio had large expectations, but the movie far underperformed despite glowing reviews. With its large budget and its relatively middling performance, Blade Runner is going to end up being a flop.
After that, the month saw the releases of movies like “Only the Brave,” “Suburbicon,” “Geostorm” and “Thank You for Your Service,” all of which are likely to miss making a profit. “Geostorm” and “Suburbicon” in particular are going to flop hard due to their large budgets.
Viewers just could not justify paying the high ticket prices to go see any of these lackluster films, despite whatever good reviews they may have received. Instead, they watched things like the World Series and the release of “Stranger Things 2” on Netflix.
Movie ticket prices are indeed getting too high for their own good. One can only blame so much on inflation and industry before people start to point fingers and cry foul.
Production companies and movie theaters need to stay competitive, but they also need to make a profit. This month was simply not their month. It is unfair to place all of the blame on ticket prices for October’s bad month, but if Hollywood and movie theaters are not careful, they could be in a lot of trouble in the coming years and lose many more moviegoers than they ever thought possible.