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Movie ticket sales rise in ’12

– The big deal for Hollywood is not the record $10.8 billion that studios took in domestically in 2012. It’s the fact that the number of tickets sold went up for the first time in three years.

Thanks to inflation, revenue generally rises in Hollywood as admission prices climb each year. The real story is told in tickets, whose sales have been on a general decline for a decade, bottoming out in 2011 at 1.29 billion, their lowest level since 1995.

The industry rebounded this year, with ticket sales projected to rise 5.6 percent to 1.36 billion by Dec. 31, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. That’s still well below the modern peak of 1.6 billion tickets sold in 2002, but in an age of cozy home theater setups and endless entertainment gadgets, studio executives consider it a triumph that they were able to put more butts in cinema seats this year than last.

“It is a victory, ultimately,” said Don Harris, head of distribution at Paramount Pictures. “If we deliver the product as an industry that people want, they will want to get out there. Even though you can sit at home and watch something on your large screen in high-def, people want to get out.”

Domestic revenue should finish up nearly 6 percent from 2011’s $10.2 billion and top Hollywood’s previous high of $10.6 billion set in 2009.

The year was led by a pair of superhero sagas, Disney’s “The Avengers” with $623 million domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide and the Warner Bros. Batman finale “The Dark Knight Rises” with $448 million domestically and $1.1 billion worldwide. Sony’s James Bond adventure “Skyfall” is closing in on the $1 billion mark globally, and the list of action and family-film blockbusters includes “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two,” “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Brave.”

Rentrak, which compiles international box office data, expects 2012’s foreign gross to be about $23 billion, 3 percent higher than in 2011. No data was yet available on the number of tickets sold overseas this past year.

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