DENVER (KDVR) — Can a day’s worth of cheap tickets rejuvenate an industry in the grips of a decades-long decline?

This coming Saturday, Sept. 3, is “National Cinema Day,” and in an effort to return movie watchers to theaters, participating businesses are offering $3 tickets for any of their movie showings for the entire day.

Over 3,000 theaters across the country are planning to take part in this day designed to breathe life back into the industry as they continue to recover from the pandemic-imposed shutdowns.

The pandemic wracked already-faltering ticket sales in the U.S.

The number of tickets sold per year had been going downhill since the early 2000s.

In 2002, ticket sales reached a peak. There were just under 1.6 billion sold. By 2017, that had fallen to 1.2 billion. According to Gallup, Americans only saw 1.4 films in theaters in 2021. Fifteen years earlier, Americans saw an average of 4.8 films a year in theaters.

The COVID pandemic all but halted sales altogether. Only 200 million tickets were sold that year. Sales have improved, but not to even the sinking pre-pandemic levels.

Even though theater chains have been charging more money for tickets – $9 or more instead of $4 in the late 1990s – they have made less every year in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Box office sales totaled over $9 billion in 2002 or over $14 billion in 2022 dollars. By 2019, that had grown to $12 billion but also shrank to $12 billion in real dollars. As with ticket sales, box office revenue cratered to $2 billion the year the pandemic hit and has not recovered.