What is surprising is that the industry isn't showing signs of a slowdown. In fact, this may shape up to be the second consecutive record-breaking summer at the box office. To some extent, inflation helps explain the phenomenon (rising prices drives up box office grosses), but that doesn't explain strong attendance numbers.
In actually researching the story that the Journal couldn't be bothered with, Schiffman went to the trouble of contacting NATO for our reaction to the story. I link to her story not only because yours truly is extensively quoted, but because Betsy Schiffman did what reporters are paid to do: get both sides of the story.
So don't ignore the Journal article because I think it's one-sided and inaccurate. Read it. Then read the Wired post and The Reel Blog post commenting on the Journal article. Agree or dsagree, at least you'll have enough information to come to a sensible conclusion.
A commenter on the Epicenter blog notes that ticket prices in Southern California run @ $10.50. This is generally the case for an adult admission at prime movie-going times. You can go for much less at a matinee and in areas outside the big cities. The average ticket prices cited historically were derived in the same way - the $2.23 average price from 1977 ($8.03 adjusted for inflation) was not the top ticket price then, just the average. The same kind of gap betwen the top price you would pay in 1977 and the average price existed then, too.