Blockbusters don't always equal theater profits

April 13, 2009 7:58:18 PM PDT
Even though the country is in a recession many movie theaters are doing big business. But not everybody is sharing the wealth.

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The Hannah Montana movie was number one at the box office this weekend, making $34 million. Friday's $17 million open was the biggest opening day ever for a G-rated, live action film.

"Friday night's numbers were huge and Saturday it took a 47 percent drop; the Hannah Montana fans needed to be there for the first shows," Balboa Theater owner Gary Meyer said.

A week ago, "Fast and Furious" roared to a nearly $71 million opening weekend.

Nielsen research says consumers are shelling out to escape financial tough times. Box office numbers have been up 2 percent the first three months of the year. At this rate, it could outpace last year's $4 billion. It is all about marketing that big weekend opener.

"We'll open a new film every weekend; we're looking forward to Star Trek and we're looking forward to Harry Potter and a lot of other big titles; we'll have one big week on them and will move them to smaller auditoriums," Grand Lake Theater owner Allen Michaan said.

Studios are focused on making the big bucks opening weekend when moviegoers they will line up at the multiplex. But there is trouble for exhibitors in independent theatres like the Grand Lake in Oakland or the Balboa in San Francisco.

"Some of the multiplexes are doing very well but for older, classic, vintage theatres like Gary and I run, we're not getting those big audiences," Michaan said.

Economic misery is what the Hollywood reporters call "the summer's real secret weapon."

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