Hollywood is thanking its lucky stars for 3D this week as the estimated figures for the 2010 summer box office are being tallied. According to USA Today, the number of actual tickets sold is the lowest since 2005. You know, the year of the "big slump." Actually this year's number (552 million) will be less than that of five years ago (563.2 million). Fortunately, thanks to the surcharges added to 3D movie tickets, despite this dismal moviegoer turnout the box office grosses are actually up this summer. Through labor day the box office should reach about $4.35 billion, which is $100 million more than the record set last year!

So, we can likely expect that Hollywood will learn nothing from this except that it should keep making -- or at least releasing -- movies in the 3D format. Never mind that this summer was one of the worst in a long time (some blame the World Cup). And just ignore that half of this report that says attendance is terrible. In a business sense, the season was very successful. Sorry James Cameron, but it looks like we'll be getting even more low-quality 3D movies to cheapen the medium's already poor reputation. Especially if execs pay more attention to the part of the analysis that says 3D surges were a heavy factor, as opposed to those high-grossing movies that didn't have a 3D release (Inception, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Iron Man 2) -- though IMAX surges may have helped these in a similar fashion.

Here's a funny side to this story: I was just looking back on some posts from 2005 about the "big slump" and found this one from the end of the year titled "The People Want 3-D." It's about a study from back then claiming that 26 million Americans would go to the movies more frequently if there were more 3D titles available. Of course, five years ago I don't think we knew yet that they'd be so much more expensive. So now we've got tons of 3D movies, about 11 million fewer tickets were sold and it still worked out for the movie biz anyway. I wonder if the attendance would have been higher if the tickets were lower, and if it would have amounted to a similar box office record. Doubtful?