North American movie attendance is down for the fourth consecutive summer, causing distress within Hollywood and publicly traded theater chains. Tallied from the first weekend in May to Labor Day, this year’s attendance is the lowest since the summer of 1997, reports the New York Times.

The good news for movie studios is that box-office revenue is projected to total $4.38 billion according to Hollywood.com, which compiles ticket data. Revenue increased less than one percent from the previous year thanks to higher ticket prices generated from 3D movies. For the same time period last year, only seven 3D movies hit theaters compared to 18 this year.

Despite the low turnout, there were still a few motion pictures that did very well in North America. The final Harry Potter film ranked first with about $375 million in ticket sales followed by Transformers: Dark of the Moon which raked in $350 million. The Hangover Part II takes the bronze medal with $254 million in sales.

The economy is naturally to blame for low attendance, and while I’d like to complain about concession prices, they have always been astronomical and will remain so as theater owners make little money off the actual films they show. But that doesn’t really explain why some are willing to pay more to watch films in 3D, a technology that many would argue is still in its infancy.

Do you feel that the economy is solely to blame for poor attendance this summer or are there other reasons? I for one refuse to spend money when I can’t enjoy a film with people texting or just being loud in general.