Escapism, fantasy mark summer movies in recession

Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:11pm EDT
 
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By Cristy Lytal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Times are tough and getting tougher, and as the summer movie season's first half launches on Friday with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," Hollywood is banking on escapist fare and fantasy flicks to cheer recession-weary audiences.

Following "Wolverine" comes the big-budget reboot of "Star Trek," conspiracy-minded "Angels & Demons" and action-packed "Terminator Salvation." And the summer's stars are A-list too, from Tom Hanks to Will Ferrell to Jennifer Aniston.

Why all the hype around Hollywood's summer that starts in May and runs through August? Those four months can rake-in up to 40 percent of annual ticket sales, so if summer tanks from the start, Hollywood dips into its own financial funk.

But one star says he's not feeling any pressure from appearing in the first big film: Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman.

"Whatever (launch) date it is, I'd want it to do well," Jackman told Reuters of his new "X-Men" movie. "I probably put more credence into that -- whether people have a great time -- than how well it does at the box office. I'm a big believer that money and box office will take care" of themselves.

Despite an unfinished version of the movie that leaked online, "Wolverine" -- in which Jackman plays a "mutant" battling bad guys with his retractable claws -- is expected to boost box office in an already strong year as fans look to escape the hum-drum of everyday life.

Year-to-date, the U.S. box office stands at $3.06 billion, which is up 17.4 percent from the year before, according to box office tracker Media by Numbers.

MORE THAN "WOLVERINE"   Continued...

 
<p>Characters from the Disney/Pixar film "Up" are shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters April 28, 2009. Times are tough and getting tougher, and as the summer movie season's first half launches on Friday, Hollywood is banking on escapist fare and fantasy flicks to cheer recession-weary audiences. REUTERS/Disney/Pixar/Handout</p>