Movie ticket prices fall in second quarter

Filmgoers paid an average of $7.88, down from $7.95 in Q1

Here's a man-bites-dog tidbit: Movie ticket prices went down during the second quarter.

The National Association of Theatre Owners said Monday that movieogoers paid an average of $7.88 to go to the cinema in the second quarter, down from $7.95 in the first three months of the year. The decline reflects the enormous first-quarter boxoffice for 3D phenom "Avatar" and the premium ticket prices exhibitors charge patrons for the privilege of viewing such extra-dimensional fare.

"Avatar" opened Dec. 18 and rang up $457 million of its record $750 million in U.S. and Canadian coin from Jan. 1-March 30. Also pumping up the first-quarter average, Disney's 3D fantasy "Alice in Wonderland" -- a $334 million domestic grosser -- unspooled March 5 and rung up $299 million by March 30, and 3D animated adventure "How to Train Your Dragon" from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount registered $53 million of its $218 million by month's end after bowing March 26.

Theaters typically charge upward of $3 more for tickets to 3D movies.

The second quarter featured just two 3D releases of similar import: Disney's "Toy Story 3" opened June 18 and raked in $251 million of its $380 million by June 30, while DWA/Par's "Shrek Forever After" fetched $231 million of its $235 million since debuting May 21.

The average ticket price of $7.90 for the first half means the industry's $6.48 billion in year-to-date boxoffice works out to roughly 820 million movie-theater admissions. That compares with 834 million tickets sold during a comparable portion of last year, so though boxoffice revenue is up more than 4% from a year ago, ticket sales are down almost 2% after accounting for price hikes.

Still, that's not a bad midyear report card, NATO said.

"We continue to outstrip last year's record pace in boxoffice and remain close in admissions," NATO spokesman Patrick Corcoran said. "That shows that moviegoers continue to recognize the value that movie theaters offer."

NATO boasts that movie tickets cost less today than 40 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, the 1969 average ticket price of $1.42 would be $8.44 today, the trade group said.