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Recession Boxoffice Surge

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 2, 2009 at 5:55AM

Well, the movie industry doesn't mind that audiences are returning to theaters in droves during a recession. It's obviously good news all around. But David Poland debunks the NYT's recession "hype." While the studios may have been smart enough to not only give the audiences what they want but market the hell out of Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Taken, there's no question that these movies are doing better than they would ordinarily do. And the NYT stat that admissions are up by almost 16% is staggering.
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Well, the movie industry doesn't mind that audiences are returning to theaters in droves during a recession. It's obviously good news all around. But David Poland debunks the NYT's recession "hype." While the studios may have been smart enough to not only give the audiences what they want but market the hell out of Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Taken, there's no question that these movies are doing better than they would ordinarily do. And the NYT stat that admissions are up by almost 16% is staggering.

But strong theatrical numbers still don't fix the studios' real bottom line: DVDs sales are down 30 %--mainly from disappointing tentpole titles.

A WGA panel Sunday night addressed these issues and other industry ills, reports John August's blog:

Yes, but movies are doing well, right? Box office receipts are on the up and up.

True, but the motherships (Time Warner/GE etc.) suck out that revenue and use it to prop up other flagging sectors. So that money doesn’t go back into development or the pockets of writers. Also, Navid McIlhargey notes that while theatrical has made a comeback, DVD sales have dropped by roughly 30%. That means four things:

The financial models studios look at before greenlighting a picture are skewed. (Depending on various factors, DVD revenue used to be equal to or greater than domestic theatrical revenue.) The projections for break-even are falling short on movies that might have been easily greenlit a few years ago. One way to counter that is by exploiting the international marketplace, which translates to more big action, (male) star-driven movies.



This article is related to: Cash Crunch, Stuck In Love, Box Office


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.