LIANE HANSEN, host:
Historically, a ticket to the movies has been a ticket to a brief escape from the stresses of lean economic times, and a source of holiday entertainment during winter breaks from work and school. With the long Christmas weekend ending, we've invited Variety reporter Pamela McClintock to find out if those traditional factors were a boon for Hollywood, or if the movie industry is suffering financially just like everyone else. She's on the phone. Hi, Pamela.
Ms. PAMELA MCCLINTOCK (Reporter, Variety Magazine): Hello.
HANSEN: Before we talk about this weekend specifically, can you give us an idea of how the movie industry has been doing throughout this economic downturn?
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: You know, the box office has actually been really strong. You know, leading people to say that once again, the film business is looking recession-proof, because people at some point do need to get out of the house. And going to the movies is, you know, believe it or not, still pretty much of a deal in terms of entertainment.
HANSEN: Are there a lot of people going to the movies so far this weekend?
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: I think this Christmas - my bet is that by the time it's said and done, it'll be the best Christmas ever. And you have movies doing so much business on Christmas Day this year, and that was very unusual.
HANSEN: What are some of the box office numbers that you know about this Christmas, compared to last year, if you can?
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Yeah. I mean, the differences this year is that five movies opened nationwide on Christmas Day itself, and four of them are going to end up very strong. So that's - you know, through the depth of the market is what is also really surprising. And "Marley and Me," which is a Fox movie, that's going to probably finish in number one, and open north of 50 million, which, considering there's so much competition, is really a phenomenal number. That's going to be followed by "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which, you know, will probably do in the 40s. And "Bedtime Stories," which is a family film, Adam Sandler, I think "Button" and "Bedtime Stories" will probably fight for number two, they'll probably be very close.
HANSEN: Do you find people are going to the movies to escape, or for other reasons? I mean, I'm thinking of the kinds of movies that have been released. On the one hand, you have "Frost Nixon" and "Doubt," and then on the other hand, you have, you know, "Marley and Me" and "Valkyrie" and some of the bigger - bigger movies. People not making choices one way or the other, they just want to go out?
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Yeah. I think people just want to get out. And there's so much choice that, you know, that's why I think everything is working well. Because, you know - and remember, the smaller films, like "Frost Nixon," they may only be playing in a few cities.
HANSEN: Right, right.
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: So everywhere else, you know, people will have - have to go sort of and see more commercial titles.
HANSEN: You talked about this whole idea of Hollywood being recession-proof. Do you think it is? I mean, it seems like people are spending money to go to the movies, but they really aren't spending money on other consumer goods.
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Right. I mean, the problems is is that the studios are owned by big conglomerates who have other interests, like theme parks, which are going to be down. So you know, I think even the studios are being asked to cut costs, even though the box office might be strong, if that makes sense.
HANSEN: Yeah. So as long as we're talking about movies, Hollywood is doing pretty well.
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Yeah, and I think it's one of the few bright spots in the entire economy. And you know, I start to see it - I cover box office, and I started to see it like at the beginning of the summer that, you know, people are really going out to the movies.
HANSEN: Pamela McClintock is a reporter for Variety, and she joined us on the phone from California. Thanks a lot.
Ms. MCCLINTOCK: Thank you.
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