By CHRISTOPHER S. FORTIER
Hollywood rakes in billions of dollars each year. Hundreds of movies are released in theatres annually, entertaining millions of people.
Is Hollywood bringing in more or less money from year to year, is the question to be asked.
The summer of 2010 looks as though it will have a number of potential box office hits, lead by the Pixar feature Toy Story 3. But compared to this time last year, is business up or down?
“Slightly worse but nothing to panic about yet,” says Robert Wales, vice president of film programming for Empire Theatres Limited.
“Every period is completely dependant on the movie selection you have to offer at any given period.”
People in the movie industry agree it is not suffering as much as other industries are.
“We were up, when most [industries] were down,” says Adina Lebo, executive director of the Motion Picture Theatre Association of Canada.
“Motion pictures fall under the ‘lipstick factor’, which most people are going to spend money on little pleasures, rather than buying vacations or stoves or whatnot.”
The ‘lipstick factor’ is based on the fact that as an economic downturn kicks in, consumers will shy away from major purchases such as cars and homes, and shift toward purchasing lesser expensive items as a cheaper way of cheering themselves up in gloomier times.
According to figures at the-numbers.com, in the first half of 2010 about $5.5 billion in tickets have been sold in the U.S. compared to $10.65 billion in sales as a whole in 2009.
The site estimates that 2010 will end with a total in ticket sales at $10.64 billion, which is slightly down from 2009’s figures.
“Theatrical business is much healthier than other divisions of the film business such as home video,” says Wales.
Over the last 15 years, movie theatres annually sell an average of 1.4 billion tickets in the U.S. This year has been projected at 1.34 billion, so estimates are still projected to be down slightly. Wales says this is not a result of the economic downturn, because he thinks the worst has been felt already.
“People cut out a lot of higher-priced things when times got tough but still treated themselves to a movie to make up for not taking expensive vacations or going to higher-end restaurants.”
Michelle Riccio, assistant of communications at Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s largest movie theatre chain, is of the same mindset as Wales.
“The exhibition industry has proven itself to be fairly recession-resistant. During tough economic times, people need escapism, and watching a movie is one of the most affordable out-of-home entertainment options.”
Wales says family-friendly and big special-effects films are the more popular among moviegoers, where smaller adult dramas are getting harder to find an audience. He adds that 3D films generate larger ticket sales than their 2D counterparts.
Lebo says, “3D is exciting, and it looks like it has staying power. Digital 3D has changed the way movies are produced, and this has excited consumers.”
Riccio agrees, ”It completely changes the movie-watching experience and envelops the guest.”