Scotty McCreery, American Idol

Kevin Winter/American Idol 2011/Getty Images

American Idol scored its biggest finale in three years. Dancing With the Stars scored its biggest season ever. NCIS, NCIS:LA and Sunday Night Football each did, too. 

For most of TV's top shows during the just-concluded season, viewership was up.

Meanwhile, a healthy Memorial Day Hangover aside, the box office has suffered double-digit declines in attendance and ticket sales.

What's up?

1. The Prices, Duh: A Wall Street analyst and our own comments section agree: It's not that Americans didn't want to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, it's that they didn't want to pay almost $15 a ticket to see it in IMAX 3-D. Besides, you know what's always cheap? Yup, a dance-off on The Bachelorette.

2. The Prices, Double Duh: Three years into the recession, roughly half of all Americans don't think they could round up $2,000. In what looks to be related news, sales of free-TV saviors (i.e., antennas) are "exploding." 

3. Scotty and Lauren Are a More Compelling Couple Than Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston: To be fair, Sandler's and Aniston's Just Go With It was a box-office bright spot, but more Americans witnessed the Idol kids' send-off (26 million) than bought tickets to the superstars' vehicle (approximately 13.6 million admissions) 'cause, face it, you can guess how a movie's going to end, but a TV kiss can still throw you.

4. American TV Is Made for Americans. Hollywood Movies? Not So Much: Sure, some primetime series translate overseas, but, unlike a big-budget, big-screen behemoth, they don't have to travel well. Because of this, stories can be specific, characters can be human and The Good Wife doesn't have to be based on a Hasbro toy. 

5. People Live for Football. A New Terminator Movie? Not So Much: When Arnold Schwarzenegger put talks for a new cyborg adventure on hold, there was no known related uptick in violent crime. Or, basically, the exact opposite of what NFL star Ray Lewis says will occur if the upcoming season is lost to a labor dispute.

As an added ratings bonus, here's a quick look at the most-watched summer shows, per the latest Nielsen cable and broadcast rankings: 

  1. NBA Playoffs (Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls), 10.4 million viewers
  2. NBA Playoffs (Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls), 9.8 million viewers
  3. So You Think You Can Dance, 9.5 million viewers
  4. The Bachelorette, 9 million viewers
  5. The Voice, 8.5 million viewers
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