Motion Pictures

As far as the  movie industry in concerned, history might not be repeating but it is coming fairly close. When the Depression hit in the 1930s, movies generally weathered the crisis better then other mass media. Starting in 1933, when the Depression was at its deepest, film revenue increased every yer but one up to the start of World War II in 1941. One of the explanations for this surprising trend was that Americans went to the movies to escape from the bleak realities of life during the Depression. A look at some of the movies popular in the 1930s seems to support this reasoning. Big, lavish musicals, such as the films of Bushby Berkeley, were big hits as were broad comedies, many directed by Frank Capra, and escapist action-adventure films such as The Prisoner of Zenda, Tarzan, and King Kong.

The economic difficulties at the end of the 2000s were not nearly as severe as those 70 years earlier. But once again, Hollywood is doing quite well during an economic downturn. Even as times were getting tight, domestic box office revenue rose to $9.8 billion from 2007 to 2008, an all-time high. Then, in the first half of 2009, revenue really took off. Ticket sales jumped about 18%, and attendance climbed by about the same number.

It seemed that Americans were once again forgetting their troubles by going to the movies. And once again, they were enjoying escapist fare, Musicals such as Mamma Mia, Step Up, and Hannah Montana were box office successes. Comedies were big (Paul Blart, Mall Cop; Marley and Me) along with the rags-to-riches Slumdog Millionaire. Action-adventure heroes such as Batman, Ironman, and Indiana Jones drew big crowds.

This is not to say that Hollywood was not touched by the economic downturn. Many studios cut staff, reined budgets, and instituted other cost-cutting measures. The digital revolution was also causing concern as sales of DVDs began to fall and digital downloading of movies increased. For now, the movie industry has done the best job dealing with hard financial times.

Source: Dominick, J. R. (2011). The Dynamics of Mass Communication, Media in Transition (Edition 11th). New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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