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Moviegoers speak up

A history of ups and downs

January 03, 2006

WHEN moviegoing was in its heyday in 1946, the American public purchased 4.067 billion movie tickets, the Motion Picture Assn. of America estimates, at an average cost of 42 cents each.

That year "The Best Years of Our Lives" won the Oscar for best picture. The United Nations General Assembly held its first session.

Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men" was published. The University of Pennsylvania built an electronic brain. And Alabama beat USC in the Rose Bowl.

Since '46, the world and the competitive landscape have changed dramatically. In fact, the only thing that has consistently gone up for the movie industry is ticket price.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
Box-office history -- A list in Tuesday's Calendar section highlighting movie box-office highs and lows alongside historical events misspelled the first name of singer Debby Boone as Debbie. Also, a reference to the 1998 pop chart hit "The Boy Is Mine" mentioned singer Brandy but not Monica, who recorded the song with Brandy.

Contemplating box office potential at the start of a new year, what follows is a very selective history of returns and some of the events that may have affected them.


Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theater" ushers in the birth of modern commercial television. 3.423 billion movie tickets are sold, average price of a movie ticket hits 44 cents. Best picture: "Hamlet," starring Laurence Olivier. Gandhi is assassinated. Harry Truman is elected president. Peter Goldmark invents the long-playing record. Alfred Kinsey publishes "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male."


Movie ticket prices nudge past the 50 cent threshold; 2.631 billion tickets are sold. Best picture: "From Here to Eternity." Top TV shows: "I Love Lucy," "Dragnet," "You Bet Your Life" and "The Milton Berle Show." Dwight Eisenhower becomes president and Queen Elizabeth II is crowned. The Rosenbergs are executed. USSR explodes the hydrogen bomb. B.F. Skinner publishes "Science and Human Behavior."


The average price of a movie ticket hits $1, just over 1 billion tickets are sold and the box office heads into a nearly decade long decline. Best picture: "The Sound of Music." Top TV shows: "Bonanza," "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," "The Lucy Show," "The Red Skelton Hour" and "Batman." The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" spends the most weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts. The Watts riots scorch Los Angeles.


U.S. moviegoing hits its lowest point to date (from 1946-2005) with 820.3 million tickets sold, average ticket price $1.65. Best picture: "The French Connection." Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" tops the charts. Lt. William Calley Jr. is found guilty in the My Lai massacre case. William Rehnquist is named to Supreme Court. Hank Aaron hits his 600th career home run. Charles Manson found guilty of the Sharon Tate murder. The magnitude 6.7 Sylmar earthquake rocks L.A. Cigarette ads are banned from U.S. television.


VCRs begin to overtake consumers' imagination, movie ticket sales reach 1.063 billion with an average ticket price of $2.23. Best picture: "Annie Hall." Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" holds on to No. 1 spot on pop charts the longest. New York City blackout leaves 9 million without electricity. "Roots" captivates TV viewers. Elvis Presley dies.


It's a watershed year for video games as the Atari Video Computer System shoots to the top of sales charts. Movie ticket sales are 1.121 billion with an average ticket price of $2.52. Best picture: "Kramer vs. Kramer." "My Sharona" by the Knack stays longest at the top of the pop charts. Pope John Paul II is first pope to visit a Communist country when he goes to his native Poland. John Wayne dies.


After a dip below the 1-billion mark throughout late '60s and early '70s, attendance caps a decade of regrowth, reaching 1.199 billion tickets sold, average ticket price $3.36. Best picture: "Amadeus." Madonna's "Like a Virgin" is No. 1 on the pop charts. The Apple Macintosh computer is launched. President Reagan visits China. AIDS virus discovered. Motion Picture Assn. of America creates PG-13 rating.


Start of the DVD revolution. 1.388 billion movie tickets are sold, at an average price of $4.59. Best picture: "Titanic." Princess Di is killed in a Paris car crash. Timothy McVeigh found guilty and sentenced to death for the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City. Tiger Woods, at 21, wins Masters Tournament.


Moviegoing in the '90s peaks this year with 1.481 billion tickets sold, average ticket price $4.69. Best picture: "Shakespeare in Love." Top TV shows: "ER," "Friends," "Frasier." Brandy's "The Boy Is Mine" holds the top spot on the pop charts. El Nino roils weather patterns around the world. Mark McGwire hits his 62nd home run to pass Roger Maris' record. Impeachment proceedings begin against President Clinton. Frank Sinatra dies. "Seinfeld's" finale is seen by an estimated 76 million people.


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