Hollywood has a summer to forget

When it comes to getting people into movie theaters, Hollywood seems to have lost its razzle-dazzle.

This summer's box office represented the weakest for the film industry since 1997, adjusting for inflation, The New York Times notes. Compared with last summer, ticket sales declined 15 percent to about $3.9 billion.

While some softness was expected, thanks to the delay of films such as "Fast and Furious 6," the dip may be the result of a confluence of trends. Take some ho-hum movies (such as "Sex Tape," which failed to titillate viewers despite Cameron Diaz' star power), and add increasingly expensive ticket prices as well as the rising popularity of streaming services like Netflix (NFLX). The result? Some consumers decided they were better off staying home.

"The movie theater experience has to compete with more than it ever has in terms of entertainment," Phil Contrino, the chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, told CBS MoneyWatch.

It's not as if the summer didn't have its hits, but they tended to be movies that offered "something new and fresh," he added.

That means moviegoers were lured by films with an original angle, such as the underdog (and under-raccoon) team featured in "Guardians of the Galaxy," but they snubbed other films, such as "Edge of Tomorrow," that seemed to offer more of the same. And some of this summer's films, such as "Tammy," were criticized for just being bad.

Without a compelling reason to visit a movie theater, consumers may be balking at shelling out more than $60 for a family of four to catch pricey 3D showings. The average ticket price is now $8.15, or a jump of about 30 percent since a decade ago, according to BoxOfficeMojo. (3D ticket prices are typically higher than those for 2D films.)

To be sure, going to the multiplex still costs far less than other out-of-the-house entertainment, such as going to a pro football game or attending a theme park. But some movie theater chains are questioning whether the typical movie experience -- sticky, soda-covered floors and uncomfortable chairs -- is enough to compete with other entertainment draws.

Take AMC, one of the country's biggest movie chains, which is spending $600 million over the next several years to install new La-Z-Boy-style seats in its theaters, betting that the renovations will boost attendance. The theaters plan to recoup the cost by increasing ticket prices down the road.

Still, the bottom line may come down to what's actually playing in the theater, rather than the comfort of the seats or the price to sit in one. While this summer was a bust, 2015 is expected to roar back with box-office hits, such as a new "Star Wars" film, the final installment in the "Hunger Games" franchise and another "Avengers" film.