Joshua Rich
January 02, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

Buoyed by summer blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Spider-Man 3, and capped off with the December hits I Am Legend and National Treasure: Book of Secrets, 2007 came to a close as the best-grossing year ever at the domestic box office. The 365-day span’s total returns of $9.616 billion trumped the previous record of $9.272 billion, set in 2002 (when Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers led the way). Overall, 2007’s revenues were up 5 percent from 2006 and a hefty 9 percent from the notoriously poor 2005.

Still, the movie business hasn’t fully recovered from that ballyhooed bad stretch of a few years back, when it hemorrhaged attendance. Even as grosses soared in 2007, higher box office prices meant that theaters sold fewer tickets. (The average cost of a movie ticket was about $6.82, a rise of 27 cents.) There were approximately 1.41 billion film admissions last year, a drop from 2006’s 1.44 billion — and nowhere near 2002’s record 1.61 billion. Also troubling is the fact that while movies have cost about $100 million to make and market for the past several years, the total price tag on a 2002 release was a mere $78.2 million, meaning that studios got much less bang for their buck in 2007 than they did five years earlier.

Nonetheless, with more money coming from overseas ticket booths and other ancillary sources, Hollywood execs have enough to feel satisfied about as the new year begins.

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