Hollywood Has First Ever Billion Dollar January

Recession or not, Hollywood seems to be doing its part to stimulate the US economy. The movie industry had its first ever billion-dollar January with an eclectic mix of films that included “Paul Bart: Mall Cop,” and the gritty Clint Eastwood drama “Gran Torino.”

Even with the Super Bowl looming large, box office revenues remained unusually strong this past weekend, grossing an estimated $129 million domestically. According to the industry tracking group, Media by Numbers, this is up one percent from last year’s $127.7 million.

Even with the recession in full swing, movie audiences generated an unprecedented $1.03 billion in revenues last month. This is even more impressive because January isn’t historically known for big box office receipts. The increase over last year’s take was $867.2 million in total, or nearly nineteen percent.

Industry officials say that the unusually strong January box office sales helped to push the new thriller “Taken” into the top spot over the weekend. This suggests that the movie industry could be benefiting from the economic trouble the country is facing.

Movies are a quick and easy escape from the layoffs and bankruptcies that are plaguing our economic system. Paul Dergarbedian, president of Media by Numbers, went so far as to say, “Movies are the new vacation.”

Also helping to boost January’s numbers was a modest increase in cinema ticket prices. The average price for a new release ticket now is $7.29, up from $7.18 this time last year. People always complain about the price of movie tickets, but in a time when consumers are very conscious of every penny they are spending, they don’t seem to mind spending a little more on a movie.

Perhaps the election of Barrack Obama has ushered in a new sense of optimism, encouraging people to spend some money again and live their lives as usual. Whatever the reason, Hollywood isn’t complaining.

“Taken” pushed “Mall Cop” out of the top spot over the weekend. The Twentieth Century Fox film grossed a whopping $24.6 million in box office sales. This is the second best Super Bowl weekend opening ever. Audiences were also turning out in great numbers for the horror film, “The Uninvited”, which grossed a healthy $10.5 million.

Paramount’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” took in $3.6 million over the weekend for an impressive six-week total of $116.5 million. The picture, staring Brad Pitt, has been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards. With ten Academy Award nominations, “Slumdog Millionaire” got a box office boost to take in $7.7 million this weekend, bringing the film’s twelve-week stats to a total of $67.2 million.


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