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Box office attendance hits lowest level in 19 years

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Americans bought 1.26 billion movie tickets in 2014, according to preliminary estimates published by The Hollywood Reporter. It sounds like a big number, but for the film industry, it's frighteningly low — a 5 percent decline since last year, and the largest year-over-year drop in nearly a decade. Most importantly, it's the lowest attendance figure since 1995, suggesting dire news for a film industry still struggling with digital piracy.

The National Association of Theater Owners hasn't released its full figures (including average ticket price), so it's difficult to say how the attendance numbers will translate into total gross. In recent years, higher ticket prices for features like 3D, Imax and HDR have helped offset lower attendance for many theater owners. Still, industry experts expect similar declines in total box office revenue, painting a dire picture for the industry at large. The brightest spots this year came from the film industry's increasingly powerful franchises. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy was the year's highest grossing film at $332 million in domestic box office, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One finishing close behind.