Good movies, prices help Hollywood in recession

Wed Dec 31, 2008 1:45pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A slew of quality movies and higher ticket prices helped Hollywood hold its own in 2008 despite recession, while 2009 promises more 3-D pictures and some big blockbusters to keep audiences coming in.

Box office revenues in the United States and Canada fell less than 1 percent to $9.6 billion in 2008 compared to $9.68 billion the year before, tracking firm Media By Numbers said.

Attendance fell by about 5 percent in 2008 but with average ticket prices up slightly, revenues held firm.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, said the high quality of the 2008 releases insulated the industry from the economic downturn.

He expects well-reviewed movies late in 2008, such as "Slumdog Millionaire," "Gran Torino" and "Doubt," to entice audiences to come out to movie theaters in 2009.

Batman movie "The Dark Knight," the top grossing film of 2008, ranked second only to 1997's "Titanic" on the all-time U.S. and Canadian box office leader board, with $531 million.

The critically-acclaimed "Iron Man," starring Robert Downey Jr., ranked second in the 2008 box office race with $318 million.

"The movies were so exciting, the product was so good this year that it is instilling in the audience a lot of goodwill," Dergarabedian said.   Continued...

<p>Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>