The famed Hollywood Sign.

Hollywood loves a happy ending, but the final weeks of 2011 have left many a movie mogul with deep frowns that even anti-aging drug Botox can't hide.

The US movie industry had its worst box office year in 15 years, selling only 1.17 billion tickets, down by 106 million from last year. Despite the success of hits such as the final Harry Potter movie and the bawdy chick flick Bridesmaids, revenues dropped by 4.9 per cent compared to 2010 as audiences stayed away from most of the new faire foisted on them by the movie studios.

From Disney's Mars Needs Moms, which earned just 39 million dollars on a 150 million dollar budget, to Conan the Barbarian which earned just half of its 90 million dollar budget, the quest for profitable films remains as elusive as ever.

According to the prominent entertainment website The Wrap, the takeaway lesson of the year was that Hollywood is failing to come up with new ideas to attract movie goers. The seven top earning films of the year were all sequels.

With movie theatres facing ever-growing competition from other leisure options, the steady decline in attendance is likely to roll on like a runaway train.

“With box office down every weekend from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, that's not a good place to be,” said Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com. “For every Harry Potter and Twilight, there's five movies that don't work. You can't just have big blockbusters bringing in the business and not the smaller films,” Dergarabedian said.

Nevertheless Hollywood will continue its franchise fever in 2012, even without stalwarts such as Harry Potter. Superheroes will be as strong as ever with new movies such as The Avengers, which hits screens in May, and The Amazing Spider-Man in July, in which Andrew Garfield will replace Tobey Maguire in the title role and the appropriately named Marc Webb takes over directorial duties.

Another summer sequel that's expected to be a major hit is the final piece in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises.

Later in the year the long-awaited screen adaptation of the musical Les Miserables will hit the world's multiplexes, where it will compete with another long-gestating project Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The teenage highlight of the year could well come from Hunger Games, the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestseller about a dystopian future in which youngsters must face the usual tribulations of their age, whilst also fighting to survive. It will face tough competition from The Twilight Saga - Breaking Dawn Part II, which is the last installment of the hit vampire franchise.

Two potential new franchises are also hoping for a successful launch, both starring John Kitsch of Friday Night Lights fame. John Carter is an epic sci-fi fantasy based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs series and directed by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton. Battleship is based on the strategic board game of the same name, but has more in common with the Transformers, another film adaptation from game maker Hasbro.

Ang Lee will direct the adaptation of the prize winning Life of Pi, a fantasy adventure about a young boy who is marooned on a lifeboat with a tiger after a shipwreck.

Other familiar names include Titanic 3D, a revamped version of the box office blockbuster first released in 1997, Men in Black III and two dueling Snow White stories - Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts and Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron.

James Bond fans will no doubt flock to see Skyfall, and may also stick around for another spy thriller reprise in The Bourne Legacy.

But the real thriller will take place in Hollywood's luxurious executive suites, where studio bosses will be biting their nails to see whether the diet of sequels, adaptations and franchise movies can arrest Hollywood's long decline. - Sapa-dpa