Can summer movies beat the economic blues?

April 26th, 2009 - 8:38 am ICT by IANS  

Christian Bale By Andy Goldberg
Los Angeles, April 26 (DPA) Hollywood’s conventional wisdom is that recessions are good for the film business because especially in hard times people will spend a relative pittance at the cinema to escape the economic blues.

If that holds true over the next few months, this summer could break box office records in the US and around the world.

Hollywood’s plan is simple: use low advertising rates to market a packed roster of films designed to give everyone a great reason to leave harsh reality behind for a couple of hours.

“The economy is presenting the movie studios with exactly what the depression did: increased revenue through attendance,” said film critic Paula Nelson in the Tampa Tribune. “Call it what you will, but escapism is proving a boon to the studios.”

Recent box-office figures are showing that moviegoers in the US are continuing to spend money at cinemas even in the digital age, when movies on the big screen have to compete with so many other entertainment and leisure choices.

According to Box Office Mojo, box office revenue so far this year is already up 15.5 percent over the same start to 2008. Hollywood is hoping to continue that trend with a slate of films that could help set summer box-office records.

The slate of surefire blockbusters includes “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Star Trek” and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”.

Hollywood hasn’t forgotten the kids who will need entertaining during the long summer holidays.

The list of must-see movies is headed by “Up”, Pixar’s summer follow-up to last year’s smash hit “WALL-E”. It’s about an old curmudgeon who fulfils a lifelong dream by floating his house into the air with a bunch of helium-filled balloons. The only problem is that a pesky 8-year-old has stowed away for the trip.

Other kid highlights include “G-Force” - the tale of an intrepid squad of secret agents who happen to be guinea pigs.

Elsewhere, Tom Hanks in “Angels & Demons” will be reprising his turn as a dashing college professor from “The Da Vinci Code”, while Christian Bale will take on the role of John Connor in “Terminator Salvation”. Ben Stiller is back as museum guard Larry Daley in “A Night At The Museum”, while Hugh Jackman returns as the title character in the prequel “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.

Quentin Tarantino is hoping to attract viewers to his ultra-violent World War II tale “Inglorious Bastards”, a gore-fest starring Brad Pitt about crazy soldiers killing Nazis.

Another one for the grown-ups is “Public Enemies”, director Michael Mann’s highly anticipated biopic about legendary outlaw John Dillinger, which stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale and is already being talked about in Oscar terms.

Watch out, too, for director Tony Scott’s remake of the 1974 subway hostage thriller “The Taking of Pelham 123″, and for what critics are already calling the first great movie about the Iraq War, “The Hurt Locker”.

“Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi is returning to his horror roots with “Drag Me to Hell”, starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long. If you want something a little more rooted in reality, how about Cameron Diaz ditching her ditzy on-screen persona for “My Sister’s Keeper”, in which she plays a mother who shaves her head in a gesture of solidarity with her cancer-stricken daughter.

The comedies include Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno”, Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” and Jack Black’s prehistoric romp “Year One”. Other notable comedies include “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard”, about an oddball gang of used car salesmen, while Woody Allen makes a return to US-based films with “Whatever Works”, in which Larry David could prove the perfect vessel for Allen’s eclectic ear for dialogue.

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