Theatre owners and studios seem to agree that the low quality of recent films is partly responsible for a major decline in ticket sales so far this year. But there are other concerns as well. Tough economic times mean luxury spending takes a dive. In essence, the cost of living is drawing people away from the box office.
The latest drama at the movies is taking place not in the theatre, but at the box office. Attendance is down, way down, at 20 percent compared with attendance in 2010.
If you ask industry insiders, they say the movies are to blame. Audiences can't seem to get excited over new offerings such as "Sucker Punch" or "Battle Los Angeles." At least not excited enough to pay those ever rising prices.
"I go less often, because of the prices," said movie fan Katherine Hudson. "If it was lower I would go more often."
"$10, $20, plus the popcorn and everything," said a Southland resident. "It ends up being $50 just to go see a movie and have a snack, and it's just a little bit much. I'd rather have a nice dinner."
The nationwide average ticket price is now nearly $8, and it's more than double that at some IMAX or 3-D theaters.
"They can add up," said movie fan Michael Warren. "I wouldn't pay $20, not at all."
"The IMAX, they charge $6, or $7, or more sometimes," said a movie fan. "Nowadays it's just too much money."
Add rising gas prices to the mix and it's simple to see why many Americans may choose to stay home and watch movies online or on cable.
"I'm mostly at home watching," said a Southland resident. "It's always a special occasion if I am going out to a movie or something that's really 'hot' that's out."
"We've got Netflix, we've got DVR, we've got movie channels," said a movie fan. "That probably adds to whether or not we will go out to see a movie or not."
It's a surprising reversal for an industry that seemed recession-resistant. Consider just two years ago when revenue surpassed $10 billion in domestic sales for the first time ever.
With sluggish sales in the first quarter of 2011, experts said they don't expect an encore performance when it comes to profits.
But don't expect a bad ending just yet, there's a hero on the horizon and it's called the summer blockbuster. Highly anticipated sequels, such as "Harry Potter" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" will sail in and hope to save the day.