Blame Netflix and a crop of uninspiring blockbusters: Movie theaters had their lowest turnout in two decades last year.
Moviegoers purchased just 1.26 billion movie tickets in 2014, the lowest number since 1.21 billion in 1995, according to early estimates. Attendance dropped 6% from 2013. Overall revenue is projected to finish at $10.36 billion, down 5% year-over-year, the sharpest decline in the industry in nine years, The Hollywood Reporter reports.
The most likely culprit for the slumping numbers are blockbuster sequels that underperformed compared to previous installments. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction and even The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 all failed to meet their predecessors’ box office numbers, perhaps finally proving to studios that big franchises are not a sure bet. The surprising success of non-sequels like Guardians of the Galaxy (the top grossing movie of the year), The LEGO Movie and Maleficent suggest that audiences suffered from franchise fatigue last year.
Streaming services are also cannibalizing movie ticket sales especially in the coveted young adult demographic. Americans aged 12 to 24 saw 15% fewer films in the first three quarters of 2014, according to Nielsen. “The theater industry is really losing out to online platforms like Netflix and Hulu,” Darryl Ulama, author of the 2014 IBIS World report on movie theaters, told TIME. In 2013, the average ticket price for a movie was $8.13. That’s the first time ticket prices have been higher than a $7.99 monthly Netflix subscription. “Consumers are saying, ‘Oh, well I can pay $7.99 for a subscription on Netflix and that’s less than one night at the movies.'”
But experts predict the industry will bounce back in 2015. Though sequels proved unimpressive this year, highly-anticipated installments in the Avengers, Star Wars and James Bond franchises should perform better than 2014’s summer tentpoles. And after decades of catering big budget films primarily to young me, studios are also finally investing money in movies that will appeal to women as well. Industry executives are hoping larger-budget pictures like 50 Shades of Grey, Pitch Perfect 2 and Paper Towns will draw female moviegoers the way Maleficent and The Fault in Our Stars did last year.