18 October, 2008

"How will the recession affect film?"

The Times

"Recession? Global downturn? You’re joking, right? For in the alternate financial universe of film these normally terrifying terms are ambiguous, unthreatening and even, in some cases, downright exciting. In Hollywood, optimists are pointing back to the huge surge in cinema admissions after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 (audience figures jumped 58 per cent on the previous year) as a template for things to come.

According to John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners in America, in a recent interview in these pages, the numbers don’t lie. “In the past four decades there have been seven recession years in this country, and the box office has climbed strongly in five of those years,” he said. The strongest of those years was the most recent, in 2001, when US box office receipts rose by $650 million.

Yet what do these numbers really mean on the ground? And how do they affect the people who are endeavouring to keep our cinemas filled with a diverse selection of cinematic art, both from home and from Hollywood? We asked ten leading industry lights for their views. If, along the way, a whole sector of worthy, low-budget indie dramas are lost in a brutal economic cull, well, they say, if you must know, it’s about time. “You could argue that there are too many films being produced right now,” says David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International (the studio that produced Mamma Mia!). "

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