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."
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?
The Academy Award nominations were announced today. The entire list is available at www.oscars.com.
BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
(Paramount and Warner Bros.) A Kennedy/Marshall Production; Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
(Universal) A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment
and Working Title Production; Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
(Focus Features) A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production; Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
(The Weinstein Company) A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production; Nominees to be determined
(Fox Searchlight) A Celador Films Production; Christian Colson, Producer
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
"Doubt" (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
"Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics); Written by Courtney Hunt
"Happy-Go-Lucky" (Miramax); Written by Mike Leigh
"In Bruges" (Focus Features); Written by Martin McDonagh
"Milk" (Focus Features); Written by Dustin Lance Black
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney); Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon; Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR
"Bolt" (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
"Kung Fu Panda" (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton
The Hollywood Reporterweighs in with 2008's projected box office tally from Nielsen EDI (the official keepers of the box office numbers for the MPAA and NATO) and it looks mighty sweet:
Meanwhile, buoyed by good weekday numbers and potentially strong holds over the holiday weekend, overall domestic boxoffice is poised to set a record. As of Sunday, 2008's year-to-date boxoffice stood at $9.45 billion, according to Nielsen EDI. By the close of business Sunday -- bringing down the curtain on the boxoffice year -- 2008 should surpass 2007's record haul of $9.62 billion by a couple of percentage points.
The final admissions tally won't be known until the end of January, when the year's average ticket price is calculated, but we expect it to be a little behind 2007.
WBTV 3 in Charlotte has Will Smith for the premiere of Seven Pounds, but first they want to tell you how the movie theater business is doing (They get the average ticket price wrong in the report; it's really $7.20. The $7.97 figure is what a $2.23 average ticket in 1977 would cost today.):
Betsy Schiffman, writing for Wired's Epicenter blog, does the digging that the Wall Street Journalneglected.
What is surprising is that the industry isn't showing signs of a slowdown. In fact, this may shape up to be the second consecutive record-breaking summer at the box office. To some extent, inflation helps explain the phenomenon (rising prices drives up box office grosses), but that doesn't explain strong attendance numbers.
In actually researching the story that the Journal couldn't be bothered with, Schiffman went to the trouble of contacting NATO for our reaction to the story. I link to her story not only because yours truly is extensively quoted, but because Betsy Schiffman did what reporters are paid to do: get both sides of the story.
So don't ignore the Journal article because I think it's one-sided and inaccurate. Read it. Then read the Wired post and The Reel Blog post commenting on the Journal article. Agree or dsagree, at least you'll have enough information to come to a sensible conclusion.
A commenter on the Epicenter blog notes that ticket prices in Southern California run @ $10.50. This is generally the case for an adult admission at prime movie-going times. You can go for much less at a matinee and in areas outside the big cities. The average ticket prices cited historically were derived in the same way - the $2.23 average price from 1977 ($8.03 adjusted for inflation) was not the top ticket price then, just the average. The same kind of gap betwen the top price you would pay in 1977 and the average price existed then, too.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article today that sets a new standard of egregious ignorance in reporting on the movie theater industry.
Using as its jumping-off point a study by Interpret LLC, the article contends that people may be giving up movie-going in favor of staying home. The proof? Interpret asked 1,000 people, in addition to whether they are seeing more or fewr movies in theaters,'if they had decided not to buy one of seven specific items in the last six months because of "concern over the economy," more respondents chose movie ticket than a range of options, including a car, DVD, videogame system and house.'
Comparing putting off seeing a movie because of money concerns to putting off buying a house or car? How many people were contemplating buying a house or car to begin with? People consider going to a movie weekly - if not more often.
The article retails some conventional wisdom that just doesn't hold up. "Those consumer behaviors are reflected in part at the box office, where any increases in ticket revenue in recent years have been largely attributable to higher ticket prices. Actual attendance has usually declined."
Some facts: Over 16 years, admissions declined five times and rose eleven times. Three of those years were recent. The past two years have been modest increases.
The record 2007 box office that industry analysts warned could not be beaten considering the lack of sequels and franchises this year fell behind 2008 box office year-to-date this past weekend. Through Monday, 2008 box office stands at $4,331,304,340 - roughly $10 million ahead of 2007.
More impressively, "Overall, ticket sales continued to outperform last summer for the fourth weekend in a row. The weekend's estimated $139 million was up 6% from the comparable weekend last year, when "Evan Almighty" led the list with an opening take of $31.2 million, according to Nielsen EDI. As a result, summer boxoffice is now running 3% ahead of last summer."
This box office performance comes without a single movie with a "3" in the title.
The comparisons for the rest of the summer remain tough:
Live Free Or Die Hard
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
The Simpsons Movie
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
The Bourne Ultimatum
Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor
Rush Hour 3
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The 2008 summer films listed represent only my guess of likely suspects for comparison to 2007. There will be the usual box office disappointments and surprises. Nobody really knows anything until the audience shows up.
What are your guesses for summer box office contenders?