It’s becoming increasingly clear that audiences are no longer content to just sit on the couch and watch movies. Not only are they returning to theaters in droves, theater operators say they are opting for pricier tickets and spending more on concessions.

Over the weekend, Disney’s latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Love and Thunder, opened with nearly $145 million in domestic ticket sales and attracted approximately 10 million moviegoers to theaters.

With additional ticket sales of films such as Paramount and Skydance’s ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, Universal’s ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ and ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’, and Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ and Warner Bros’ ‘Elvis’ hit the domestic box office the weekend brought in around 240 million US dollars.

That’s well above the $185 million for the same weekend in 2019, according to data from Comscore, when Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home sat alongside Disney’s Toy Story 4 and Aladdin, Universal’s Yesterday, Warner Bros.’s Annabelle Comes Home and A24’s Midsommar Top Box Office .”

“We’ve been bouncing up and down this weekend,” said Brock Bagby, executive vice president of B&B Theaters, a regional Midwest theater chain with more than 50 locations. “Friday was our biggest day of the year and our biggest single day since Spider-Man: No Way Home premiered in December.”

With new blockbusters driving more people to theaters, the summer box office season in the US and Canada is down just 12% compared to the pre-pandemic summerc, according to Comscore. Between May 1 and July 10, the box office took in $2.27 billion from tickets. That compares to $2.58 billion for the same period in 2019.

For the year to date, the domestic box office has amassed more than $4.25 billion in ticket sales through Sunday. That’s 30% less than before the pandemic in 2019.

“Since the beginning of the summer and the release of ‘Doctor Strange,’ the studios have produced one excellent film after another,” said Jeffrey Kaufman, senior vice president of film and marketing at Malco Theaters. “This got moviegoers excited and they responded to a range of fun, exciting and entertaining films.”

Large and small cinema chains benefit from this. AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest cinema chain, reported its highest worldwide admissions of the year this weekend with over 5.9 million admissions. Global gate receipts surpassed the same weekend in 2019 by 12%, it said on Monday.

“Box office results week after week after week this summer have demonstrated what we at AMC have believed in all along: Consumers want to experience their movies through the unparalleled experience of a movie theater, with its big screens, big sound and comfortable big seats,” said Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, in a statement.

B&B Theaters’ Bagby also told CNBC that moviegoers are far more likely to choose premium formats than they were before the pandemic. These include IMAX, Dolby, 3D and other experiences that offer immersive seating or panoramic screens. He added that viewers would also spend a lot more on food and drinks.

B&B Theaters forecasts it will end the year with same-store sales down about 10% based on films due out over the next few months and an expected lull between August and October.

“I wish there were more products, but luckily the titles we had were incredibly strong,” he said.

The total number of films with wide releases in 2022 is down more than 30% compared to 2019, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Still, audiences will have a ton of content to choose from by the end of the year. Disney will release Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Warner Bros. and DC have Black Adam and Shazam: Fury of the Gods. Universal is set to release Jordan Peele’s Nope, and Sony has the much-anticipated Bullet Train.

The year concludes with Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the first planned sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time.

“Going to the movies is a habit,” Kaufman said. “Once people get used to it, they always find films they want to see.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of Minions: The Rise of Gru, Jurassic World: Dominion, Nope, and Yesterday.

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