Every year the movie industry comes up with a way to brag that the previous year has been the best yet, and usually it's a sham. After all, the simple fact of inflation means that most years, you're going to make more in sheer dollars than you did the year before. 2012 was no different, with studios bragging about their highest-ever profits, but something special really did happen this year: for the first time in two years, there were actually more people going to the movies.

It was a pretty significant 5.6% jump in North American attendance for the year, according to The New York Times, the biggest yearly increase since 2002. And that's even after an unusually weak summer, which was down 3% overall for attendance. Anaylsts interviewed by the Times credit just two movies for this giant 2012 upswing: The Hunger Games, a March release, and November's Skyfall. Neither were as popular as the year's #1 and #2 movies, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, but both were way more successful than anyone expected for a non-superhero movie, and provided the sense that people who might not normally feel included in the usual Hollywood formula-- i.e. younger women and older adults-- were flocking to theaters.

The news about the bump in attendance for North American moviegoers goes against a lot of the conventional wisdom spouted about the movie industry-- that no one goes to the movies anymore, that international box office is all that matters, that any profits the studios make comes from 3D surcharges and rising ticket prices, not actual interest. It's encouraging news not just for the studios that rely on our money, but for all moviegoers, in seeing a diverse slate of hits power a huge, huge year. Yes, the year's top 10 films include only two not based on previously existing material-- Ted and Brave. And yes, the year's three big superhero movies were also among the biggest hits, in a pattern unlikely to change for a while. But it takes more than just The Avengers to make a great year, and seeing surprise hits like Magic Mike or Lincoln or 21 Jump Street points to a wide range of movies that got to people-- and that might get them to keep coming back to the movies next year too.

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