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Hollywood Has Dismal Year at Box Office

A box-office jolt from the magic kingdoms of Kong, Narnia and Hogwarts will close Hollywood's year with some holiday cheer, though not enough to offset the biggest decline in movie attendance in 20 years.

The number of tickets sold at movie theatres is expected to finish at about 1.4 billion, the lowest since 1997.

Before Thanksgiving, attendance had been running 8 percent behind 2004's. Huge crowds for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", the fourth installment of the boy conjurer's adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, helped to whittle that deficit down to 7.3 percent by early December but even with the last-minute surge from two other fantasy epics, "King Kong" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", movie attendance likely will be down 6 percent or more for the year.

That marks the largest drop since admissions fell 12 percent in 1985.

Some studio executives and Hollywood analysts say 2005 just brought a generally weaker lineup of films. Others insist movie-goers are abandoning ship in favor of home theaters with big screens and booming sound, where fans can watch films on DVD only a few months after their theatrical release.

Driving to a multiplex, finding a parking spot, fighting for a seat and putting up with high concessions prices and other cinema hassles makes the comfort of home sound ever more appealing.

"One thing we sometimes overlook, especially people in the business, is the quality of the moviegoing experience", said Richard Roeper, a movie critic.

"If someone's waiting through 20 minutes of commercials, you've got people behind you kicking your seat and talking on cell phones, do you think a lot of people might say, `You know what? I've got a great sound system, I've got a 50-inch plasma screen. I'm just going to wait three months until the DVD comes out'?"

In poll last summer, 73 percent of adults said they preferred watching movies at home on DVD, videotape or pay-per-view than going to theaters. And if the 2005 lineup of films truly looked less appealing, it's no wonder so many people stayed home.

December 18, 2005 |

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