Hollywood headed for banner year at box office

Hollywood headed for banner year at box office

By Reuters

Los Angeles: Hollywood is poised to end the year with a record $9.7 billion in domestic movie receipts, up 4% from 2006, but the gain will be fueled largely by higher ticket prices, box office tracking service Media by Numbers said on 27December 2007.

Movie admissions are expected to remain nearly flat for the year, with a projection of a scant 0.17% increase over 2006 to 1.42 billion tickets sold. That would still be down considerably from the high-water attendance mark of 1.6 billion admissions in 2002.

Admissions were especially hard hit this year during a string of post-summer movies with somber themes, like Michael Clayton and war-related dramas In the Valley of Elah and Rendition. The films were praised by critics but left audiences cold.

I am Legend, grossed more than $150 million since its record December opening two weeks ago and helped reinvigorate the market, along with Alvin and the Chipmunks and last weekend’s top film, the Nicolas Cage adventure sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

“Those movies really turned things around, giving us a nice boost at the very end of the year," said analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

Sequels, too, were a big part of the equation, especially the trio of threequel blockbusters that launched a record $4 billion-plus summer season in May, superhero tale Spider-Man 3, computer-animated storybook satire Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Each grossed well over $100 million in its debut weekend, an unparalleled cluster of smash openings that provided momentum for a string of summer hits that followed, including Transformers, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Simpsons Movie and The Bourne Ultimatum.

The year started off with first-quarter hits like geriatric biker comedy Wild Hogs, the Will Ferrell ice-skating spoof Blades of Glory, the warrior epic 300 and the comic thriller Disturbia.