It was nicknamed the Year of God: the 12 months when Biblical epics swept the box office and brought Hollywood heavenly rewards.
In the end, it turns out 2014 was the year the thunderbolt struck. While a comedy caper involving the leader of North Korea and Seth Rogen turned into an international slanging match, December's controversy over the on-off release of The Interview cast into shade Hollywood's worst year for ticket sales in two decades.
To blame? Partly a series of big-budget action movies that promised much but failed to deliver. But, more worryingly, the figures suggest that younger filmgoers, when offered a diet of sequels, prefer to stay at home and download a film from the internet instead. There is no sign of that trend turning round.
Industry executives are promising better this year, with what one commentator called "the perfect beast" of schedules to return sales to record levels. But all five of Hollywood's most talked-about offers for the coming year represent more of the same - big-budget action sequels.
The Hunger Games delivered in 2014
They include Avengers - Age of Ultron and reprises of the James Bond, Star Wars, Terminator and Jurassic Park franchises, all of which go back 20 years or more.
The figures show the number of cinema tickets sold in North America last year was down to 1.26 billion, the lowest annual total since 1995. Box office receipts amounted to US$10.3 billion ($13.4 billion), down a painful 5.2 per cent from 2013.
A string of expected surefire blockbusters failed to find their mark, partly because of the quality of the films, and partly because young people stayed home to watch Netflix and play video games.
Traditionally bankable stars who flopped included Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 3, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sabotage, Bruce Willis in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and Johnny Depp in Transcendence. The hottest story of the year - before Sony was hacked in apparent retribution for The Interview, in which the actors Seth Rogen and James Franco played journalists sent to kill North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un - was the return of the biblical epic.
Exodus: Gods and Kings failed to deliver in 2014
But Russell Crowe and Emma Watson could not save Noah, nor could Christian Bale's Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings save the industry from its financial woes. The highest grossing film of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, took in US$332 million.
By contrast, in 2013, three films - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Iron Man 3 and Frozen - each grossed more than US$400 million.
Some fear the decline is irreversible. According to data firm Nielsen's 2014 Moviegoing Report, the key decline in cinema attendance has been among those aged 12 to 24, a group it calls "Digitals". Hollywood is battling on several fronts, including the challenges of online streaming services, the increasing quality of television series featuring film stars, and the speed with which a movie can be consigned to oblivion by bad reviews on social media.
Last year Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation , said "Movies are not a growth business".
Ironically, the controversy surrounding The Interview, which Sony Pictures initially pulled from cinemas, may have encouraged studios to find alternative ways of releasing movies. It made US$15 million in its first four days after being released for sale on the internet, about what might have been expected on the first weekend of a cinema release.
Not that Hollywood is giving up. This year, the studios intend to throw everything they have at audiences. More millions will be poured into fewer, higher profile movies that will become "events" people feel they cannot afford to miss.
Traditionally, such films are released in the summer. But this year they will extend throughout the year.
Dave Karger, a spokesman for US movie ticket seller Fandango, said: "I have never, in the 20 years that I have been following the movie business professionally seen a year that is so packed with potential blockbuster films like 2015."
-Telegraph Group Ltd