Hollywood Plots A Recession Strategy

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There could be a silver lining for the economy — on the silver screen. Pamela McClintock, movie business reporter for Variety talks about how the movie industry is coping with the current economic climate.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day, I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. During the stretch of nearly constant awful economic news, no surprise that people are looking for an escape. For many, one of the cheapest ways to get away from it all is at the movies. Ticket sales have been up over the past few months. To talk more about that, we're joined now by Pamela McClintock of Variety. And Pamela, compared to past years, just how much have ticket sales increased?

Ms. PAMELA MCCLINTOCK (Reporter, Variety): Well, so far this year revenues are up more than 10 percent. And the more startling gain is in admissions, the actual number of people going to the movies. And that's up over 10 percent here today, which is very unheard of in this day and age.

COHEN: Why is it unheard of?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Well, I think since the birth of DVDs the actual number of people going to the movies has sort of been on the decline. Some years, you'll see a slight uptick but never to this degree. So I think it is proof that, you know, as people give up, maybe dining out and more expensive forms of entertainment, they're opting to go to the movies more.

COHEN: And are certain types of faring better than others?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Well, I mean, a wide range of movies have done well from "Taken" to "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." I mean, there is a feeling here that comedies are going to play better, but I'm not convinced that, you know, that's an absolute truth.

COHEN: So how is the movie industry doing overall?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Well, I mean all the studios are owned by being conglomerates who have a lot of other interests including television and other ad revenue-based businesses. And as we all know, ads are down, so they are struggling in other areas. And on the movie side, the DVD market is also hurting. So, that drags down the bottom line as well.

COHEN: And, of course, you also have in recent weeks this never-ending stalemate with the contract negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild. How is that affecting production?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: You know, I think most studios are pretty confident that there won't be a strike but, you know, there is the threat of it. And, you know, I think people are planning on going ahead with productions.

COHEN: The big film this past weekend was "Watchmen," which made $50 million opening weekend, which is a lot of money, but it was less that expected. Is that an indication at all that may be business might slow down a bit at the box office?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: I don't think you can say that just to based on "Watchmen" because "Watchmen" was a particular sort of movie and, you know, it's two hours and 40 minutes and it's rated R. So, right away, you know, it's got some limitation. You know, it's a graphic novel that not everybody knows. So, it doesn't have the same brought appeal that a "Superman" or a "Batman" or "Spiderman" have.

COHEN: Going forward, we're heading into spring, summer is not too far off. If you can look ahead into the future, what do you see coming up for box-office sales if the economy continues to proceed as it has then?

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: You know, if movies continue to strike a cord like they have been, I think it's going to be, you know, a big summer. You certainly have some huge titles, "Terminator" and one of the Harry Potter movies and Paramount's "Star Trek" among, you know, other movies. And there are a lot of comedies, so I think the question on that side is, you know, is there room for two or three comedies in the marketplace?

COHEN: Pamela McClintock covers the movie business for Variety. Thanks.

Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Thank you.

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