With box-office attendance sliding, so far, for the third consecutive year, many in the industry are starting to ask whether the slump is just part of a cyclical swing driven mostly by a crop of weak movies or whether it reflects a much bigger change in the way Americans look to be entertained – a change that will pose serious new challenges to Hollywood.
Studios have made more on DVD sales and licensing products than on theatrical releases for some time. Now, technologies like TiVo and video-on-demand are keeping even more people at home, as are advanced home entertainment centers, with their high-definition television images on large flat screens and multichannel sound systems.
“It is much more chilling if there is a cultural shift in people staying away from movies,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the Exhibitor Relations Company, a box-office tracking firm. “Quality is a fixable problem.”
But even if the quality of movies can be improved, Mr. Dergarabedian said, the fundamental problem is that “today’s audience is a much tougher crowd to excite. They have so many entertainment options and they have gotten used to getting everything on demand.”