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What does Hollywood's record 2009 really mean?

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Hollywood has enjoyed a respectable year at the box office. The industry is 8% ahead of last year’s record ticket-sales revenue. Variety calls it a “boom,” and much ink has been spilled over the theory that in hard financial times, people escape to the movies. But recent data offers only lukewarm support, since actual attendance is up just 3% from 2008, which just so happened to be the industry’s worst year for paying customers since 1997. (Last year’s record revenue is attributed purely to higher ticket prices.) Throw in higher production and marketing costs and a cratering DVD market–rentals may be up, but sales are down double-digit percentages from last year–and the overall financial picture isn’t as rosy. Some studios are predicting record profits, perhaps due to solid international box office, but Hollywood mail-clerks and junior assistants shouldn’t be surprised if the champagne at this year’s holiday’s party is still served in paper cups.

Have your movie-going habits changed in the past year or so, due to financial factors? Are you going to the theater more or less? Are you renting more home videos instead, as figures indicate? And what about DVD purchases? Sound off in the comments below and let us know how overall box-office trends are playing out in your household.

Image Credit: Robert Zuckerman