No Apologies for Movie Successes

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The movie industry shouldn't apologize or be ashamed of its success in a down economy as moviegoers pushed
global box office revenues to a record $28.1 billion in 2008, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America said Tuesday.

Dan Glickman, chairman and chief executive of the association, told a theater industry convention in Las Vegas that local, state and federal governments should view moviemaking as a boost to their economies and not hesitate to help an industry that seems to be doing well.

"The vast majority of folks in our business are middle-class workers earning a living wage, and that's a fact that too often gets lost in the debate about how to move our industry forward, how to move our economy forward," Glickman said at the annual ShoWest convention. "Too often in politics, the word 'Hollywood' gets cast
as a stock villain in a tired tale."

Global box office revenues increased 5.6 percent from $26.7 billion in 2007. The Motion Picture Association said 2008 box office revenue in the U.S. was $9.8 billion, up 1.7 percent from 2007.

Alan Horn, president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., said 29 of more than 600 movies released last year grossed more than $100 million domestically. Topping the list was "The Dark Knight," which grossed $531 million domestically. "Iron Man" was second at $318.4 million.

"We had a fantastic year in 2008, as you know, in spite of all that's gone on economically," Horn said. "We had a great year and we're off to a wonderful start already in 2009."

Movie revenues are $2.38 billion so far in 2009, up 12 percent from the same period in 2008, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

Average movie ticket prices in the United States rose 4.4 percent in 2008 to $7.18, from $6.88 in 2007, the Motion Picture Association said. he price increase made up for a 2.6 percent drop in admissions to 1.36 billion from 1.4 billion in 2007, the association said.

Glickman said the movie industry faces a "perception challenge" in a battered economy that has seen consumers tighten their spending as they worry about jobs, retirement and paying the mortgage.

"When folks talk about, 'So how is the box office doing,' It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's nothing to apologize for," Glickman said. "When our business is good it's not enough to say 'they're doing fine and we don't have to worry about them."'

Glickman's remarks come as the association has been pushing cities and states to create production incentives for film and television production. Glickman also said it is important for the industry to keep lobbying for tighter anti-piracy penalties and support from lawmakers as it seeks less restrictive export policies to allow U.S.-made movies to be seen more widely in other countries.

The association said the number of films produced in 2008 dropped to 520 from 656 the year before, a decrease of 20.7 percent.

In the economic downturn, studios are opting to take fewer risks on ictures that aren't certain blockbusters.

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of heatre Owners, said fewer movies shouldn't hurt box office revenue.

Frankly, we could use fewer weekends of five new wide releases," Fithian said. "Some marketing campaigns get lost in the clutter and some patrons can't figure out what they want to see."

The motion picture association didn't release figures for the average cost of moviemaking, which rose 6.3 percent in 2007 for major studios - $106.6 million per picture to make and market each film.

Glickman said he thinks the averages are meaningless because costs vary widely for different types of films. He said his staff was considering other ways to compile and distribute the data.
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