Wayne Schmidt's Box Office Data Page: Data on annual U.S. box office grosses, average theater ticket prices, number of theater screens, U.S. population, per capita ticket purchases, and number of drive-in theaters from 1929 to 2012.

 
In the following table, ticket is the average price for theater tickets in that particular year, population is the U.S. population, releases is the number of movies released, screens is the total number of both indoor and drive-in movie screens in the US at the end of the year, box office is the total U.S. (or domestic) box office, and per capita is the average number of tickets purchased per person that year based on the US population at the end of the year.

Most of the data for this table was taken from Movie Time, by Gene Brown, MacMillan, 1995. It was supplemented with information from the websites www.natoonline.org (number of screens, gross box office receipts), slate.msn.com/ID/1003700 (off line), www.census.gov (population), www.the-numbers.com/market/2007.php (number of movies released in 2007) and www.boxofficemojo.com (ticket prices, gross box office receipts.

Ticket prices vary from reference to reference. Where there was a disagreement, an average of the references was used. Where there were no values for a particular year linear interpolation between the closest years was used to estimate the cost of the average ticket for the year in question. (Note: Total US box office grosses, ticket prices and the number of theater screens varies slightly from source to source due to different data collection methodologies.)

 
DATE...TICKET...POPULATION...RELEASES...SCREENS....BOX OFFICE....PER CAPITA

1929.....$.35........122 million...........707..........23,344.......$720 million..........16.86

1930.....$.20........123 million...........595..........23,000.......$732 million..........29.76
1931.....$.21........124 million...........622..........21,993.......$719 million..........27.61
1932.....$.22........125 million...........685..........18,715.......$527 million..........19.16
1933.....$.23........126 million...........644..........18,553.......$482 million..........16.63
1934.....$.23........126 million...........662..........16,885.......$518 million..........17.87
1935.....$.24........127 million...........766..........15,273.......$566 million..........18.57
1936.....$.25........128 million...........735..........15,858.......$626 million..........19.56
1937.....$.26........129 million...........778..........18,192.......$676 million..........20.16
1938.....$.27........130 million...........769..........18,192.......$663 million..........18.89
1939.....$.28........131 million...........761..........17,929.......$659 million..........17.97

1940.....$.28........132 million...........673..........19,042.......$735 million..........19.87
1941.....$.28........133 million...........598..........19,750.......$809 million..........21.72
1942.....$.29........135 million...........533..........20,380.....$1,022 million.........26.10
1943.....$.30........137 million...........427..........20,293.....$1,275 million.........31.02
1944.....$.32........138 million...........442..........20,375.....$1,341 million.........30.37
1945.....$.34........140 million...........377..........20,457.....$1,450 million.........30.46
1946.....$.35........141 million...........467..........19,019.....$1,692 million.........34.29
1947.....$.37........144 million...........486..........18,607.....$1,594 million.........29.92
1948.....$.40........147 million...........459..........18,395.....$1,506 million.........25.61
1949.....$.43........149 million...........470..........18,570.....$1,451 million.........22.65

1950.....$.48........152 million...........622..........19,106.....$1,376 million.........18.86
1951.....$.50........155 million...........654..........18,980.....$1,310 million.........16.90
1952.....$.55........158 million...........463..........18,623.....$1,246 million.........14.34
1953.....$.60........160 million...........534..........17,965.....$1,187 million.........12.36
1954.....$.46........163 million...........527..........19,101.....$1,228 million.........16.37
1955.....$.52........166 million...........392..........19,200.....$1,326 million.........15.36
1956.....$.55........169 million...........479..........19,003.....$1,394 million.........15.00
1957.....$.56........172 million...........533..........19,003.....$1,126 million.........11.69
1958.....$.60........175 million...........507..........16,000.......$992 million.......... 9.45
1959.....$.60........178 million...........439..........16,103.......$958 million...........8.97

1960.....$.69........181 million...........387..........16,999.......$951 million...........7.61
1961.....$.74........184 million...........462..........21,000.......$921 million...........6.76
1962.....$.75........187 million...........472..........21,000.......$903 million...........6.37
1963.....$.85........189 million...........420..........12,800.......$904 million...........5.63
1964.....$.94........192 million...........502..........13.750.......$913 million...........5.06
1965...$1.02........194 million...........452..........14,000.......$927 million...........4.68
1966...$1.10........197 million...........451..........14,350.......$964 million...........4.45
1967...$1.21........199 million...........462..........13,490.......$989 million...........4.11
1968...$1.31........201 million...........454..........13,120.....$1,045 million...........3.97
1969...$1.42........203 million...........412..........13,500.....$1,099 million...........3.81

1970...$1.55........205 million...........367..........13,750.....$1,162 million...........3.66
1971...$1.65........208 million...........432..........14,000.....$1,170 million...........3.41
1972...$1.70........210 million...........376..........14,400.....$1,644 million...........4.61
1973...$1.77........212 million...........463..........14,400.....$1,524 million...........4.06
1974...$1.87........214 million...........550..........14,400.....$1,909 million...........4.77
1975...$2.05........216 million...........604..........15,000.....$2,115 million...........4.78
1976...$2.13........218 million...........575..........15,800.....$2,036 million...........4.37
1977...$2.23........220 million...........560..........16,050.....$2,372 million...........4.83
1978...$2.34........223 million...........354..........16,250.....$2,653 million...........5.08
1979...$2.51........225 million...........214..........16,900.....$2,806 million...........4.97

1980...$2.60........227 million...........245..........17,600.....$2,749 million...........4.66
1981...$2.78........229 million...........411..........18,056.....$2,966 million...........4.66
1982...$2.94........232 million...........428..........18,000.....$3,452 million...........5.06
1983...$3.15........234 million...........495..........18,900.....$3,766 million...........5.11
1984...$3.36........236 million...........536..........20,200.....$4,031 million...........5.08
1985...$3.55........238 million...........470..........21,150.....$3,749 million...........4.44
1986...$3.71........240 million...........451..........22,750.....$3,778 million...........4.24
1987...$3.91........242 million...........509..........23,550.....$4,253 million...........4.49
1988...$4.11........244 million...........510..........23,250.....$4,458 million...........4.45
1989...$3.97........247 million...........501..........23,150.....$5,033 million...........5.13

1990...$4.23........249 million...........410..........23,700.....$5,022 million...........4.77
1991...$4.21........252 million...........458..........24,575.....$4,803 million...........4.53
1992...$4.15........255 million...........481..........25,100.....$4,871 million...........4.60
1993...$4.14........258 million...........469..........25,750.....$5,154 million...........4.83
1994...$4.08........261 million...........453..........25,689.....$5,400 million...........5.07
1995...$4.35........264 million...........411..........27,843.....$5,490 million...........4.78
1996...$4.42........267 million...........471..........29,731.....$5,910 million...........5.01
1997...$4.59........270 million...........510..........31,865.....$6,370 million...........5.14
1998...$4.69........273 million...........509..........34,168.....$6,950 million...........5.43
1999...$5.06........276 million...........461..........37,131.....$7,450 million...........5.33

2000...$5.39........281 million...........478..........36,280.....$7,670 million...........5.06
2001...$5.65........284 million...........482..........35,173.....$8,410 million...........5.24
2002...$5.80........287 million...........467..........35,836.....$9,520 million...........5.72
2003...$6.03........290 million...........508..........35,995.....$9,490 million...........5.43
2004...$6.21........293 million...........551..........36,652.....$9,530 million...........5.29
2005...$6.40........296 million ..........544..........37,740.....$8,838 million.......... 4.67
2006...$6.58........301 million ..........603..........38,415 ... $9,209 million.......... 4.65
2007...$6.88........303 million ..........672..........38,794.... $9,657 million.......... 4.67
2008...$7.18........305 million ..........653..........39,567.... $9,800 million.......... 4.49
2009...$7.46........308 million ..........518..........39,233..'.$10,594 million.......... 4.61

2010...$7.95........311 million ..........527..........39,238..'.$10,562 million.......... 4.27
2011...$7.96........313 million ..........592..........39,580.... $9,889 million.......... 3.97
2012...$7.94........315 million ..........692..........39,056..'.$10,700 million.......... 4.30
2013...$8.05........317 million ..........676..........40,194..'.$10,920 million.......... 4.28 NEW!!!

 
Ticket prices for 2012 uncharacteristically declined. Although the average "asking" price for tickets increased because of premium prices asked for IMAX and 3D theaters, the failure of these venues to attract large numbers of people resulted in the average "paid" price being reduced. While it appears this didn't occur in 2013, there is insufficient data to determine if IMAX and 3D venues are still dragging costs down but not enough to overcome increases in regular ticket pricing.

Browsing through this list clearly shows the effects of several social, economic, political, and technological influences. From 1932 to 1939 per capita ticket purchases fell by one-third and a 40 percent drop in the number of screens reflected the economic hardships of the great depression. World War II brought back economic stability with the results that per capita ticket purchases increased as did the number of screens from 1940 to 1944. In 1946, immediately after the war, there was a sudden spike in per capita ticket sales, reflecting the relief and joy of the war being over and our having won. The 34 tickets per person for this year was the highest it had ever been or ever would be. The recession of the early 1950s dropped the per capita rate and the arrival of television in the majority of family homes caused the per capita rate to plummet. The arrival of multiplexes in 1986 can be seen in the rapid rise in the number of screens nationwide, though the effect on the per capita rate was only a modest increase.

One of the interesting facts the total annual movie grosses show is that while big blockbuster movies attract a lot of media attention, they only count for a very small fraction of the total. For example, the $377 million The Return Of The King earned in 2003 represents only 4 percent of the total box office for that year.

For anyone interested in drive-in theater statistics, here is a listing of the number of drive-ins in the U.S. per year. These were included in the number of screens listed above.

1930-1941 = 0
1942 = 70
1943 = 90
1944 = 96
1945 = 102
1946 = 300
1947 = 548
1948 = 820
1949 = 1,203

1950 = 2,202
1951 = 2830
1952 = 3,276
1953 = 3,791
1954 = 4,062
1955 = 4,587
1956 = 4,494
1957 = 4,500
1958 = 4,700
1959 = 4,769

1960 = 4,000
1961 = 6,000
1962 = 6,000
1963 = 3,550
1964 = 4,100
1965 = 4,150
1966 = 4,200
1967 = 3,670
1968 = 3,700
1969 = 3,700

1970 = 3,750
1971 = 3,720
1972 = 3,700
1973 = 3,650
1974 = 3,575
1975 = 3,600
1976 = 3,635
1977 = 3,600
1978 = 3,600
1979 = 3,575

1980 = 3,550
1981 = 3,300
1982 = 3,050
1983 = 2,850
1984 = 2,850
1985 = 2,800
1986 = 2,800
1987 = 2,084
1988 = 1,497
1989 = 1,014

1990 = 910
1991 = 899
1992 = 870
1993 = 837
1994 = 859
1995 = 848
1996 = 826
1997 = 815
1998 = 750
1999 = 683

2000 = 683
2001 = 683
2002 = 666
2003 = 634
2004 = 640
2005 = 648
2006 = 649
2007 = 635
2008 = 636
2009 = 628
2010 = 623
2011 = 606
2012 = 606
2013 = 606 NEW (The repeated constancy of the number of screens over the last three years makes me wonder if the statistics page used for this number is pencil whipping the data instead of taking the time to research it.)

As this list shows, the golden age for drive-in theaters only lasted two years: 1961 and 1962. (Note that the total number of movie screens also hit a high during these two years.) After that this venue dropped into a slow decline, which ended with a sudden decrease when multiplexes and THX surround sound appeared. This decline continued until the 2003-2005 period where the number of drive-ins appears to have become stable. I assume this is the number that have enough nostalgia and novelty attraction to remain economically viable.

 
Finally, the following list shows the growth of the number of U.S. homes with televisions (from The Nielsen Company):

1939 = 2,000
1949 = 1.5 million
1950 = 4 million
1952 = 19 million
1960 = 46 million
1970 = 60 million
1978 = 73 million
2000 = 102 million
2001 = 106 million
2002 = 107 million
2003 = 108 million
2004 = 110 million
2005 = 110 million
2006 = 111 million
2007 = 113 million
2008 = 114 million
2009 = 115 million
2010 = 116 million
2011 = 115 million (2011 was the first year to ever post a decline in the number of homes with televisions.)
2012 = 115 million
2013 = 116 million UPDATED (While the total number has increased, it was at a slower rate than the number of new households. This is because many people are opting out of traditional TV viewing in favor of cheaper streaming options over the Internet. One source claimed that part of the motivation for this migration away from commercial television is that people are tired of wading through hundreds of channels to find what they want and then having to deal with annoying commercial breaks.)

 

 

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