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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

March 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM

In dismal economy, box office booms

So, did you go to “Watchmen” this weekend? A lot of people did: The superhero epic earned an estimated $55.7 at the box office in its first three days. It’s the biggest opening of the year, and all the more impressive considering that the movie’s length (two hours and forty minutes) limits the number of screenings per day. The numbers, still, are a bit of a disappointment: Warner Bros. had hoped for a $70 million opening (as director Zack Snyder’s previous film “300” achieved, in one of the box-office surprises of 2007), and booked the film in a record 3,611 theaters to overcome the length limitations.
Overall, box office numbers are up 15 percent from last year at the same time. Considering the economy, this is a remarkable figure, but it plays right in to what we always hear about the Depression: People flocked to the movies, to escape from what was happening outside the theater. I was talking the other day to the manager of my neighborhood bookstore (which sells mostly used books) and he said business was doing surprisingly well. Sounds like we’re all still treating ourselves, when we can, to modestly priced pleasures like a movie or a paperback.
And what are we watching? The Variety box-office chart makes for interesting reading. Popular movies recently include the comedies “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” and “He’s Just Not that Into You” (though not “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” so rom-coms don’t get a free pass), the Clint Eastwood drama “Gran Torino,” the Oscar favorites “Slumdog Millionaire” (which has seen a big bump in recent weeks) and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and the dog story “Marley & Me.” But the biggest hit of the holiday season (still making money after 15 weeks in release) is the vampire romance “Twilight,” which could well top $200 million. Escapism, with a bite.

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