LOS ANGELES - Hollywood loves breaking box-office records, yet studio executives aren't griping that their 2008 lineup will fall a bit shy of the all-time high set a year earlier.
With the overall economy in the pits, movie moguls are just glad to have weathered the year with faithful audiences that continued to crowd into theaters.
"Last year was the record of all time. The economy's tough. Things are bad out there, and I think if we can have another record-breaking year or close to it, I figure we'll all be happy," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., which released the year's biggest hit, "The Dark Knight" ($531 million).
Through New Year's Eve, 2008 domestic revenues are expected to come in just shy of 2007's record of $9.7 billion, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers. Factoring in higher admission prices, the number of tickets sold in 2008 is running 5 percent behind last year's, when admissions totaled 1.4 billion.
Hollywood historically survives recessions better than many businesses because movies remain relatively cheap compared with sporting events, live theater and other forms of entertainment.
While consumer belt-tightening no doubt costs studios some cash, the list of 2008 blockbusters is a sign of a healthy business delivering the goods across every genre.
The 2008 lineup showed that hit movies do not "have to be a mindless concept," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, whose 2008 successes included the comedy "Tropic Thunder," featuring fresh and wildly different performances from "Iron Man" star Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. "If you tell a compelling story, you can get an audience to show up." *