By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES � Hollywood loves a comeback story. Now it's trying to live one.
After one of the worst springs in industry history, movie ticket sales are rebounding this summer.
And while attendance and revenue remain behind last year's pace, studio executives and analysts say summer could give Hollywood enough momentum to eclipse 2010.
According to Hollywood.com, ticket sales for 2011 are $4.6 billion, about 7% behind the previous year in revenue. Attendance stands at about 580 million tickets sold thus far, about 12% behind 2010.
The numbers, observers say, indicate a less-than-expected boost from 3-D films, which can double the cost of an average movie ticket, which is now at $8.01.
But consider where the industry was just three months ago, when revenues and attendance were off by more than 20% from 2010. Summer ticket sales are $1.6 billion, 7% ahead of the same time last summer. Attendance hit 109 million tickets sold through Monday, nearly 12% ahead of last year's pace.
Studios can thank the muscle cars and muscled stars of Fast Five for getting the turnaround started in late April. The fifth installment of the franchise revved up $207 million and became the first breakout hit of the year.
More followed. Despite tough reviews, sequels to The Hangover and Pirates of the Caribbean sailed past $200 million. Of the top five movies of the summer (and the year), four are sequels. Thor, at $177 million, is the only original story. And that was a comic-book spinoff.
But filmmakers and studios still must "step up their game," says Transformers director Michael Bay. His third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, will be the first in 3-D, a novelty that seems to be wearing thin at the cineplex.
Bay, who accuses studios of cheap and quick 3-D, says, "People have been getting ripped off, and they're skeptical. There's only one way to fix that: Deliver a movie worth seeing."