It’s pretty well known that almost every time the U.S. enters a recession the box office sees an increase in ticket sales. 2009 has proved no different. Or has it?
A recent entry on Michael Allison’s Communication Leadership blog makes me wonder if the movie industry is spinning the current recession in hopes to repeat ticket-sales booms during similar economic downturns. A tactic that counters what the government and most industries are doing.
January and February posted big numbers respectively. However, March seems to be slowing down, especially with Watchmen not meeting industry expectations. Some argue the media set the bar too high for Watchmen when comparing it to director Zack Snyder’s 300.
It seems like numbers for January and February are actually inflated if you think about it. A series of reboots, sequels and popular book adaptations really gave January and February a huge boost. Films like Friday the 13th, He’s Just Not That Into You and Madea Goes to Jail already had locked in audiences. The only real surprise hits have been Taken and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which that film’s surprise success is even questionable when you consider Kevin James resumé, which includes The King of Queens, Hitch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Even if attendance is up 14% this year compared to last year, that is to be expected with such highly publicized titles.
A lot of numbers have been tossed around that supposedly indicate the movie industry is benefitting from the recession, but those numbers also don’t factor the rise in ticket costs. February’s record breaking month was actually on par with February 2004 and February 1997 when you count tickets sold, according to Box Office Mojo.
It seems like DVD would benefit from a recession even more so than theaters. It costs more than $30 for two people to go to a movie theater when you factor in admission and concessions. It costs even more to go to an IMAX or 3-D showing. A DVD costs $15 to $20 to purchase and somewhere in the ballpark of $4 to rent. However, DVD revenues are down across the board, even with The Dark Knight and Iron Man breaking DVD and Blu-ray sales recently. DVD sales are so terrible right now 20th Century Fox is removing all special and bonus features from rental DVDs starting the end of March with the release of Slumdog Millionaire and Marley & Me in an ill-advised attempt to boost slumping DVD sales.
It’s going to be interesting to see how other films based on original material perform at the box office later this year. Is the movie industry benefitting from the recession? Probably not. Is the movie industry putting positive spin on the recession? Probably.