It ain’t the revenues as much as the number of bodies passing through the turnstiles. And the reality, as reported by USA Today‘s Scott Bowles, is that 2010 wasn’t a very good year in this respect. 1.35 billion tickets were sold — the smallest tally in 14 years, or since 1.33 billion were sold in 1996. The headline over Bowles’ story calls 2010 “dismal,” in fact.

The average 1996 ticket price in the U.S. was $4.42. The average 2010 ticket price was $7.85. 2010 attendance fell 5.4% below 2009 levels, which was the largest drop since attendance fell 8.1% in 2005, Bowles reports.

Of course, the option of watching films on demand or via online streaming, or resorting to illegal downloads, or people deciding to wait for the Bluray/DVD is where some of the lost theatrical take has gone. There’s also the fact that the big chains play lowest-common-denomiunator Eloi crap 85% to 90% of the time, and that the picture-and-sound quality of the theatrical experience at many if not most megaplexes doesn’t measure up to a good home-theatre system with Bluray and amplified sound.

Bowles’ statistics came from a just-released study by