Is Tinsel Town Recession-Proof?

Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet in "Revolutionary Road." (Dreamworks Pictures) DreamWorks Pictures

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the box office, with Hollywood releasing a sleigh-full of movies, from sci-fi thrillers like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to big-star dramas - such as "Revolutionary Road" - to cuddly kids' fare, like "The Tale Of Despereaux."

For Hollywood, the holidays are traditionally a cash cow, even in tough economic times, CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

Starting with the Great Depression, when a quarter of the nation was out of work, people have managed to spare a dime to go to the cinema.

"What movies offer today is the same thing they offered during the Great Depression - it's an escape," said Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com.

And one moviegoer said: "What better way to forget about the troubled economy than go to the movies?"

Box office numbers tell the story. In five of the last seven recession years, as the economy went down, ticket sales went up.

So far this downturn, it's looking good.

"During the past three months we're up 15 percent in our box office revenues over the same period last year, up 9 percent in ticket sales," said John Fithian of the National Association of Theater Owners.

That's 25 million more tickets than a year ago - worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Fact is, Hollywood's been recession-proof for so long, they've put it into the script. But this time, Hollywood isn't totally teflon. Several studios have had layoffs.

This year, there's been hit after hit since Thanksgiving weekend. And at only $10 a pop, you get a distracion.

Movies, they say, can help us through the tough times. As Brad Pitt said in an interview about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," movies "can remind us of the good things, the good things in our lives."

So even with all the bad economic news, it could be another very merry Christmas - for Tinsel Town, anyway.
  • Sandra Hughes

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