Ever since motion pictures were invented, one thing has remained the same: the harder the times, the more people go to the movies. The Great Depression of the 1930s triggered Hollywood’s Golden Age, as millions of unemployed people happily spent a quarter to have their spirits lifted by Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
While the average movie ticket costs closer to ten dollars today, millions of unemployed people are just as happy to spend their money to be dazzled by the latest Hollywood extravaganza. And it doesn’t hurt that you can now charge movie tickets to your credit card.
Christmas 2009 was Hollywood’s highest grossing weekend in history, as moviegoers spent more than $278 million in three days to see James Cameron’s “Avatar” ($75 million), Robert Downey, Jr. as “Sherlock Holmes” ($65.4 million), and, wait for it… “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” ($50.2 million).
The types of movies that flourish in tough economic times are typically big-budget escapist fare, but there’s seldom a connection between a film’s critical response and its box office grosses.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the most critically acclaimed film of 2009 was the Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker,” with an average critical rating of A- (and a worldwide box office total of $16 million).
One of the least critically acclaimed films of 2009 was “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which earned a critical rating of C- (and a worldwide box office total of $835 million, making it the top grossing film of the year).
Once again, escapism ruled the worldwide box office in economically strapped 2009, with “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “2012” and “Up” joining “Transformers” to round out the top five grossing films of the year.
When it comes to the movies, what’s changed because of the current state of the economy? Absolutely nothing.