In Hollywood, Hard Times May Mean Good Times

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'Visible Man' Blog

Read more from John Ridley on his blog.

The only bromide in Hollywood older than "boy meets girl" is that "movies are recession-proof."

This cliche dates waaay back to the Great Depression, when the only two things anyone could seemingly spare a dime for were bootleg liquor and Busby Berkeley musicals.

Makes sense. When times are tough, people want to escape to somewhere fantastic without having to pay actual escape-to-somewhere-fantastic cash.

And offering a couple of hours away from the ordinary is what the movies do best.

So as our economy falters once again, will America look west to us Godless heathens in Hollywood to lift the nation from its doldrums — and make a buck to boot?

History says yes. The "recession-proof" line isn't just Hollywood lore. According to Time magazine, domestic box office returns were up five of the last seven times the economy was down.

For example:

1981. We had the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, a steep jack in oil prices — and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which snatched an arkful of $209 million.

The 1973 Oil Crisis. God, oil again. Good thing we don't have to worry about that anymore. That actually ran until 1975. During that time, Hollywood cranked out hits like American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Chinatown and The Godfather: Part II.

And then there was this little picture called Jaws. A $7 million investment that turned into a $69 million domestic first-run windfall.

Not only does Hollywood make money — it seems to make better movies during recessions. I'm sure a lot of studio executives wish we could have one every year.

And if there was ever a time us heathens needed some box-office heroics, it's now. As the brilliantly executed writers' strike cost California billions in revenue and thousands of jobs, people all over the state are hurting.

So how's this year looking? This summer we had snappy financial receptions for Iron Man, the ladies from Sex and the City and another Indiana Jones again.

And then there was The Dark Knight, which at $527 million is the largest domestic hit in 11 years.

So can Tinseltown once again buck the financial trend? Well, in Hollywood, there's usually a happy ending.

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