It’s been conventional wisdom that things like recessions and depressions don’t really affect Hollywood. In fact, there are people out there who believe that the worse things get in the real world, the more that people are going to flock to theaters to escape the darkness in their own lives.
For Hollywood, the fact that movie-ticket sales climbed in both of the last two recessions ($1.9 billion in 1974 to $2.1 billion in 1975, $3 billion in 1981 to $3.5 billion in 1982) seems to serve as reassurance to those heavyweights who want to look to the future with wide-eyed optimism, rather than with any kind of real cynicism.
But, the world was a different place during the last two recessions, and whether Hollywood wants to admit it or not, it’s probably got a hard road ahead of it.
For one thing, DVD rentals will definitely serve as a way to cut into any movie profits, and when other factors (such as the internet and videogames) are tossed into the mix, there are those who feel that Hollywood moguls might want to look to the future with a little more realism.
Previous recessions were met with more optimism than the one that we’re currently in, and that means that people were not hording money or cutting back on expenses as drastically as they’re doing now. Luxury items and entertainment costs are going to be the first to removed from a family’s budget.
Keep in mind that in 2008, attendance was down 5 percent, but ticket prices went up, causing revenues to hold firm. This might not prove to be a formula that works for 2009, however.
Hollywood is not without its tricks, however. 2009 will see the release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” for example, and with that opening in the summer, it stands a very good chance of being a major moneymaker for the studio. In addition to that, there are 3-D movies being released (“Monsters vs. Aliens” and “My Bloody Valentine”), which will entice those audience members in who are willing to pay a premium for such unique technological fare.
2009 will also see the release of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Terminator: Salvation” and “Star Trek,” all of which should bring in some huge sums of money.
So, while other industries might see a dramatic hit to their bottom line, Hollywood seems to be poised to weather yet another recession.
“Good Movies, Prices Help Hollywood In Recession” by Alex Dobuzinskis (Reuters, 31 Jan 09)
“Recession Ripples” by Paula Parisi (Entertainment Weekly, 26 Dec 08)