A once-central cultural delivery system may be in decline due to competition from newer technology, reports the NYT. No, not newspapers, but movies. Sharon Waxman writes that the current 11-week dip in box office receipts, the longest slump since 2000, is causing some concern:

Since 2002, attendance is down about 10 percent for the comparable period, to about 433.7 admissions from about 485 million. The decline has provoked speculation that a rising DVD market and the advent of more elaborate home entertainment centers, along with the shrinking window of time between a theatrical release and the appearance of the DVD, is causing moviegoers to stay home and wait for discs.

“It does take more to get people out of the easy chair and to the theater; movies have to be so much more compelling,” said the president of Exhibitor Relations, Paul Dergarabedian. “DVD’s and home theater create more of an anchor to keep people at home. There’s a little bit of that going on, and when there’s more competition for eyeballs, it’s a lot more of a challenge.”

Still, some of Hollywood’s most seasoned executives insist that this year’s problem is a simpler one: The movies have not been good enough. Usually, they said, a sleeper hit comes along in late winter or early spring to wake up the box office, like last year’s “Mean Girls” or “Starsky & Hutch” – or the crucifixion blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”

Of course, since the same movie studios who live or die by the weekend B.O. also reap the giant profits of the burgeoning DVD industry. So, I’d still rather be a movie studio than a newspaper company.