At first glance, 2011 may wow with its lineup of big-name sequels (final Harry Potter, fourth Pirates of the Caribbean, third Transformers, etc.) and other major franchise fare (Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, etc.). But that may just be a veneer: a schedule packed with ever more sequels and adaptations can limit growth opportunities as was seen in 2010.
Thus far, 2011's off to an anemic start, and prospects aren't much rosier for the near future. At the same point, 2010 was riding on the back of 2009 holdover Avatar to record grosses and had Alice in Wonderland around the corner. But 2010 ended with a whimper, resulting in weak holdover business for 2011. Throw in a sub-par January slate, and 2011 is currently running 31 percent behind 2010. 2011's gross-to-date is also down substantially from 2009 and 2008, and attendance is at its lowest in close to 20 years.
As the year progresses, the franchises and 3D presentations will ramp up, but it remains to be seen whether they'll lift 2011 out of its hole. There will hopefully be some original fare that breaks out, but such movies are largely invisible at this stage, obscured by the franchises and a lack of information and promotional materials.