Goodbye, Dragon Inn

In news that might be surprising to anyone living in a cult for the past couple of decades, The Hollywood Reporter announces that 2014 suffered the worst theater attendance numbers since 1995. When even a new Transformers movie isn’t enough to save theatergoing, the pastime is truly doomed.

Roughly 1.26 billion people went out to the movies in the past year, the lowest figure since 1995’s 1.21 billion. The National Association Of Theater Owners (or NATO, as it probably doesn’t want to be known) hasn’t calculated the average ticket price for the year yet, but it’s guessed that attendance is at least 6 percent lower than in 2013. While attendance has historically fluctuated—hitting a high in 2002 thanks to Spider-Man, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, and Star Wars: Episode II—Attack Of The Clones—the latest decrease is actually the largest year-to-year decline in almost a decade. It would have been even worse, except for a robust fall and winter season, along with a number of lower-budget films doing solid business.

Happily, the blame seems to be going not to “changing attitudes” or “increased home video quality,” but rather the fact that a lot of the biggest summer tentpoles of 2014 just weren’t very good. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age Of Extinction both underperformed, and even The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 failed to match the box-office earnings of its predecessors. Guardians Of The Galaxy seems to be the lone success story, with its $332 million making it the top-grossing domestic release of the year. Nonetheless, media analysts are bullish about 2015, citing upcoming films like 50 Shades of Grey and Cinderella as reasons to get moviegoers excited, though hopefully not for the same reasons.

Ironically, despite this gloomy report, Fox actually had the best-ever worldwide box-office tally for a studio last year, posting over $5.5 billion in earnings. It seems mutants and rampaging apes will still bring in the dollars.