Average Price of a Movie Ticket Rises to $8.97 in 2017

AMC Theaters New York City 2006 - Getty - H 2017
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Individual admissions, meanwhile, declined by more than six percent.

While the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. rose to $8.97 in 2017, an increase of 3.69 percent, total domestic box office in North America dropped by 2.55 percent to $11.091 billion, according to information released Wednesday by the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Despite the increase in ticket prices, the overall decline in ticket revenue was caused by a drop in overall admissions, which fell by 6.03 percent to 1.236 billion.

While the average ticket price hit $8.97, it remained below the cost of an average ticket in 1977 when adjusted for inflation. Back then, a ticket cost $2.23, the equivalent of $9.40 in today's currency.

For the final quarter of the year, the average ticket price hit $9.18, up from $8.79 in the fourth quarter of 2016. Fourth-quarter ticket prices reflected the more expensive tickets sold for 3D and large-format screens which were in demand as well as the roster of adult-skewing, awards-contending films hitting the multiplex. 

While the 6.03 percent drop in admissions was the steepest decline in the past decade, over those 10 years the number of annual admissions has actually bounced around the 1.3 billion mark — increasing four times, decreasing five times and staying even with the previous year on one occasion.

In terms of admissions, 2017 had a strong first quarter, with hits like Beauty and the Beast contributing to a record-setting Q1 in terms of both admissions and box office. But then the tide turned because of a disappointing summer, in which a number of sequels failed to perform up to expectations. A particularly downbeat August accounted for half of the summer 2017 shortfall, according to NATO. Moviegoing rebounded in the fourth quarter of the year to nearly the level of 2016, as 315 million tickets were sold compared to 319 million in fourth quarter 2016.

From the theater owners’ perspective, the see-sawing business during the course of 2017 only underscored the need for Hollywood to maintain a balanced, compelling release schedule throughout all 52 weeks of the year.