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Cha-Ching! It's boom time at the box office in 2009

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One bumbling mall cop, a vengeful father, a cranky old racist, a group of struggling romantics, and an ax-wielding psychopath. It’s not your typical band of superheroes, but in the first seven weeks of 2009, this motley crew has helped Hollywood’s box office go boom while just about everything else has busted apart. Last weekend, a reboot of the classic slasher film Friday the 13th became the latest in a string of movies to debut strongly, scaring up an impressive $43.6 million and pushing year-to-year box office results up more than 22 percent. Seems watching Jason Voorhees chase young lovers in the woods is good for a scare — plus, it’s a lot less frightening than waiting to see if the bank will foreclose on your home. “The American consumer became aware of how deep the economic troubles were back in October,” says John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “Since then, our business has been robust — week after week.”

Despite all the good news at the movie theaters, Hollywood isn’t entirely immune to the economic ennui. Numerous jobs have been cut, advertising revenues are sagging, and growth for the once indestructible DVD business is slowing dramatically. (Netflix, on the other hand, beat Wall Street estimates with its most recent quarterly earnings.) Strong box office returns can’t fix everything, but for now they do seem to be alleviating some of the pain. “Getting off to a good start is not a bad thing,” says Sony vice chairman Jeff Blake. “I’ve got a feeling I’m going to walk into Walmart and feel pretty good with what’s going on with the Mall Cop DVD shelf.”

The heretofore untapped Kevin James oeuvre — who knew?! — isn’t

the only winner. Audiences have watched Liam Neeson kick butt in the

surprise hit Taken ($80.5 million), fallen for the romantic ensemble comedy He’s Just Not That Into You ($57.8 million), and turned Oscar shutout Gran Torino ($129.6 million) into the biggest hit of Clint Eastwood’s career.

Indeed, by offering moviegoers such a broad slate during the usually

junky early-winter period, Hollywood has convinced them that the best

value for their dwindling discretionary funds is still a plain ol’

movie ticket. (Of course, a trip to the concession stand easily puts

that theory to the test.) “We’re still recession-proof as long as

people want to see the movie,” says Bruce Snyder, Twentieth Century

Fox’s president of distribution, who saw Taken actually rise by 6 percent in its third week to $21.8 million, for the four-day frame. “That’s what we were hoping to open to.”

Not every newcomer is resonating: The International and Confessions of a Shopaholic

have been met with indifference. But then, a thriller about evil

bankers and a comedy about a labelista don’t really strike the right

chord these days. “The International certainly didn’t perform the way

we wanted it to,” says Blake. “Maybe it was too real.” Adds New Line

president Toby Emmerich: “A movie that deals with juggling credit-card

debt is not escapism right now.”

Despite those misses, Hollywood is optimistic about the months ahead. With big-ticket comedies like I Love You, Man, the 3-D animated romp Monsters vs. Aliens, and a little band-of-anti-superheroes movies called Watchmen on deck for March, the box office should continue to be one industry that doesn’t need a stimulus package.

More box office:


Box Office Report: ‘Friday the 13th’ slashes records

Box Office Report: ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ gets lots of love

January box office was biggest ever

The heretofore untapped Kevin James oeuvre — who knew?! — isn’tthe only winner. Audiences have watched Liam Neeson kick butt in thesurprise hit Taken ($80.5 million), fallen for the romantic ensemble comedy He’s Just Not That Into You ($57.8 million), and turned Oscar shutout Gran Torino ($129.6 million) into the biggest hit of Clint Eastwood’s career.Indeed, by offering moviegoers such a broad slate during the usuallyjunky early-winter period, Hollywood has convinced them that the bestvalue for their dwindling discretionary funds is still a plain ol’movie ticket. (Of course, a trip to the concession stand easily putsthat theory to the test.) “We’re still recession-proof as long aspeople want to see the movie,” says Bruce Snyder, Twentieth CenturyFox’s president of distribution, who saw Taken actually rise by 6 percent in its third week to $21.8 million, for the four-day frame. “That’s what we were hoping to open to.”

Not every newcomer is resonating: The International and Confessions of a Shopaholichave been met with indifference. But then, a thriller about evilbankers and a comedy about a labelista don’t really strike the rightchord these days. “The International certainly didn’t perform the waywe wanted it to,” says Blake. “Maybe it was too real.” Adds New Linepresident Toby Emmerich: “A movie that deals with juggling credit-carddebt is not escapism right now.”

Despite those misses, Hollywood is optimistic about the months ahead. With big-ticket comedies like I Love You, Man, the 3-D animated romp Monsters vs. Aliens, and a little band-of-anti-superheroes movies called Watchmen on deck for March, the box office should continue to be one industry that doesn’t need a stimulus package.

More box office:
Box Office Report: ‘Friday the 13th’ slashes records
Box Office Report: ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ gets lots of love
January box office was biggest ever