That's a quote from a wonderful L.A. Timesarticle on this year's booming box office under the comically generic headline "Box-office revenue up for 2009".
The piece goes somewhat deeper than the headline suggests, considering whether booming box office and increased attendance this year are economically-driven or if something fundamental is underway in the way people want to watch movies. It even notes that new social media technologies like Twitter may be powering positive word of mouth far longer and more broadly than anticipated.
The box-office boom has not only surprised many in Hollywood, but provided a much-needed source of revenue growth as DVD sales have plunged more than 13% so far this year.
And it has proved that despite a digital revolution in the ways audiences consume content, one of the oldest methods has not lost its appeal.
"When the economy is down, people start cutting back, but after a while they want to go out and be entertained," said Ed Mintz, the president of market research firm CinemaScore. "Even at $10, or $15 for IMAX or 3-D, going to the movies is still a cheaper night out than almost anything else."
The economy is clearly part of the equation, but perhaps something else is happening. I'll leave Sony's Jeff Blake with the final word:
"There was a feeling that the business was recession-proof, but this is more than that," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
"This is people rediscovering going to the movies."
As if crushing debt, the recession, Netflix and Redbox weren't enough, Blockbuster Inc. has a new foe: the booming box office.
That's according to Jim Keyes, chief executive of the struggling but still massive DVD rental chain, who on Thursday blamed much of his company's weak performance last quarter on the growing number of people watching movies in theaters and not their living rooms.
"We estimate nearly 3 million more people are going to the movies each week in 2009 [than 2008]," he said on a conference call with analysts. "This has been pulling traffic from Blockbuster stores."
BusinessWeek has an article today explaining to its readers that movie theaters just might be a good investment.
"People have assumed for years that home theater and DVDs were killing off the business," says money manager Steve Birenberg, president of Northlake Capital Management and the media sector blogger for market research firm SNL Kagan. "Now we're seeing that's not true and it's much more stable and sustainable than investors thought."
Over the recent Easter weekend, the top 12 films brought in $130 million, up 61% from the same weekend last year. The previous weekend, which took in $148 million, was the biggest draw ever in April. And that comes after first-quarter receipts rose by 10% to 15% from the same period a year ago.
Now they're seeing that's not true. So are DailyFinance and Barron's (subscription req'd). Barron's published an investment note from Wall Street analysts at Piper Jaffray, which says, in part:
Year-to-date the domestic box office is up nearly 15% despite the battered consumer, lending credence to our thesis that solid content, escapism and low ticket prices relative to most other forms of out-of-home entertainment will combine to fuel solid box-office performance throughout 2009.
Double-digit increases in box office certainly do lend credence to that thesis. So do three straight years of gains at the box office. To be fair, though, it took the three previous down years for analysts to begin predicting the untimely demise of the movie theater industry. Both perspectives ignore the fact that the movie theater industry is on a three-decade path of modest, sustained growth.
Average Annual Admissions
The current ride of big box office and attendance increases is great fun and a rare bright spot in a tough economy. It's important to remember, though, that it will not always be this way. There will be years of slower growth and there will be years when attendance shrinks, but it's the long term trends and fundamental strengths of the business to keep an eye on. Trust me: the movie theater industry has been dying for 40 years and will continue to do so for as long as I can imagine.
Even though box office and attendance are up over last year by double digits, the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis, North Carolina is trying to ease a little of the financial pressure on its patrons by offering free admissions every Wednesday. NBC Nightly News has the story.
Big media outlets are waking up to the phenomenal box office and admissions numbers being generated so far this year.
On Sunday, the New York Timesweighed in with the news that movie theaters are a bargain:
Helping feed the surge is the mix of movies, which have been more audience-friendly in recent months as the studios have tried to adjust after the lackluster sales of more somber and serious films.
As she stood in line at the 18-screen Bridge theater complex here on Thursday to buy weekend tickets for "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience," Angel Hernandez was not thinking much about escaping reality. Instead, Ms. Hernandez, a Los Angeles parking lot attendant and mother of four young girls, was focused on one very specific reality: her wallet.
Even with the movie carrying a premium price of $15 because of its 3-D effects - children's tickets typically run $9 at the Bridge - Ms. Hernandez saw the experience as a bargain.
"Spending hundreds of dollars to take them to Disneyland is ridiculous right now," she said. "For $60 and some candy money I can still be a good mom and give them a little fun."
On Monday, it was NBC Nightly News, with Brian Williams waxing lyrical about the reasonably-priced comforts of settling in to a darkened movie theater, favorite snacks in hand.
There's a lot of emphasis on comedies and "feel good" films doing especially well. Is this your experience as well? What kinds of movies take you away during troubled times?
Box office is booming, and ABC News takes a look on the Friday before the Oscar telecast.
If you look closely, yours truly has apparently gotten a new job as spokesman for the previously unknown "National Association of Theatregoers". Aside from the really ugly acronym (NATg), they don't exist. We really like theatregoers, but we don't speak for them.
Hot on the heels of Interpret LLC's survey suggesting consumers are cutting back on moviegoing because of economic worries comes a report from the NPD Group asserting exactly the opposite.
NPD's "Entertainment Trends in America" reports that nearly 80 percent of frequent moviegoers plan to go to the theater the same amount or more often than they did last year, despite news about a declining U.S. economy. Even among infrequent moviegoers (those who attend movies once or twice within three months) 57 percent plan to hold steady, or even increase, their attendance this year. (emphasis mine)
Taken from a sample of more than 11,000 consumers, the report notes certain factors that drive consumers to the movies:
The top reason cited by consumers who intend to go to the movies more often this year is the social experience of going with family, friends, or significant others (73 percent). Nearly half (48 percent) pointed to the overall "movie-theater experience" (e.g., large screen, sound systems, etc.) as a primary reason they like to watch movies in the theater.
Makes sense - and it's something we've been saying here quite a lot. Something else we've been saying - home entertainment technologies are not a threat to moviegoing. Movie theaters and home entertainment are complementary. People who love movies are promiscuous. They'll watch movies over and over and in many different ways.
According to NPD's report, frequent moviegoers are 20 percent more likely than the average movie-ticket buyer to purchase DVDs of recent theatrical releases. They are also 60 percent more likely to rent a movie downloaded from the Web, and 40 percent more likely to purchase a movie as a digital download.
We don't expect frisky movie-goers to confine their love solely to the movie theater. But we do believe in serial monogamy - the preservation of the theatrical release window.
To sum up, the sky is not falling, movie theaters continue to not die. Will the Wall Street Journal report it? "Buehler...? Buehler...?"