Report: 2011 box office sales decline due to ‘post-Avatar effect’

The success James Cameron’s 3D blockbuster “Avatar” enjoyed in theaters becomes doubly apparent when you measure the performance of other 3D fare against it and consider research group IHS has included the film’s title in an almost-scientific term to describe just why this year’s total box office sales are down year-over-year. The “post-Avatar effect” may not sound like something you’d see in a professional journal, but as an explanation for a foundering global theater biz it makes perfect sense.

Report: 2011 box office sales decline due to 'post-Avatar effect'

Charlotte Jones, a Senior Analyst for IHS Screen Digest with eight-years experience investigating what we pay to see and why, chalked up the 16% drop in global ticket sales to the fact theaters just couldn’t compete at the same level without an “Avatar”-like success story to offer theatergoers. It’s not every year a film grosses nearly $3 billion, after all.

Jones found that the “post-Avatar effect” at least in part caused ticket sales to drop from $4.83 billion in Q1 2010 to $4.05 billion in Q1 2011. She goes on to report that the bulk of that lost revenue – $549 million – comes from U.S. consumers alone steering clear of theaters. Of course, it wasn’t all about “Avatar” in 2010, says the analyst. “Alice in Wonderland” and “How to Train Your Dragon” performed admirably as well.

The majority of countries studied for the report saw declines, though the U.S. saw one of the steepest – along with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal. In fact, only two countries posted an increase in ticket sales in the first few months of 2011 according to IHS Screen Digest: Argentina and Brazil.

Similar to other recent reports, Jones points out a lack of interest in 3D content among U.S. theater attendees this year. Revenue generated by 3D films dropped around 8% year-over-year. Some analysts, however, remain optimistic that home 3D will take off in the years to come. Companies are doing their best to get 3D TVs into more homes, but with HD TVs only recently becoming the standard in living rooms an additional (and pricey) ‘next big thing’ may take a while to catch on.

One consumer-friendly upside to the 3D ambivalence at the box office? Slightly less expensive ticket prices, reports IHS. However, you’ll probably just end up spending the little saved at the concession stand.

What was the last 3D movie you saw in theaters? Are there any in particular you’re looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comment section.