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Financial crisis I: Souring economy dooms movie box office

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With Wall Street in chaos, is it any wonder worried consumers are starting to cut back on discretionary spending?

A new Jupiter Research report found that 32% of online adults say they’re cutting back on going to the movies. That’s fewer than people who say they’re doing less driving (63%), shopping (60%) and vacationing (44%), but nonetheless should sound some alarms in Hollywood.

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During the 1991 recession, box office revenue slumped 4.4%, according to Adams Media Research. But people don’t always avoid the theater in times of economic unrest. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, box office revenue actually rose 8.6%; and the immediate aftermath of 1929 stock market collapse sent people to the theaters in droves for a bit of escapism. Box office revenue rose 58.2% in 1929 over the previous year.

But as the hard times dragged on, ticket sales declined. By 1932, box office receipts were off 26.7% from 1931, according to Adams.

And that was before the advent of television, the Internet or video games.

--Dawn C. Chmielewski

PHOTO: Traders working in Wall Street at the beginning of the 1929 stock market crash. OFF/AFP/Getty Image.


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