Wide screen CinemaScope, surround sound, special effects and marathon movies are still not enough to create a large movie going audience. Sixty years ago movies were magic and the only way to see a flick was to go to the theater. In an age past, back in 1948 before television sets were common place 4.6 billion movie tickets were sold in a year; 65 out of every 100 people would go see a movie on any given week. By 1958, many homes had a television set and tickets to shows decreased by more than half to a measly 2 billion.
By 1988 there were few homes without a TV and, while the odd movie was still magical and drew a big crowd, ticket sales lingered around the 1 billion mark. The costs of making movies could no longer be covered by audience attendance alone and paid advertising became common place.
Today we live in a time where home theater systems are affordable and the movie experience can be enjoyed in the comfort and convenience of home for a fraction of the cost. The decrease in weekly movie attendance has continued to the point that in 2008 less than 6 percent of the nation would go see a movie in a week.
Oddly while movie goers have decreased in the last sixty years the number of prints produced has increased. For example Star Wars was launched on a mere 32 screens in 1977, whereas in 2009 The Dark Knight opened with an international screening requiring 12, 000 prints.
The average cost per print is $1, 500, an extravagant cost when you think that a screening lasts no longer than a few weeks and that most the prints are destroyed once out of the theaters. Dead film prints however contain silver, and the studios mine it out of the shredded prints through a chemical recovery process. Given the excessive number of prints and the going rate for silver in November 2011 was $30 per ounce, the studios find their silver screen can make a fine lining for their pockets.
Unfortunately for the studios this extra income will eventually come to an end as more movie theaters move to digital. On top of that unless there is some serious audience creation the rate of movie attendees will continue to decline. The production of monumental movies that draw large crowds in the opening week can lead to even larger audience turn out through word-of-mouth. This model is highly sought after to generate profits like the $600 million grossed by Titanic.
The digital age is upon us and to a large extent the populace is no longer a movie going one. The gap between the movie theater and home theater is getting narrower and movie production companies and box offices may need to find other sources of revenue.