July 18, 2008— -- While Wall Street has reached bear market territory, "Wall E," the Disney-Pixar animated film is having banner days at the box office. And despite a faltering national economy, "Sex in the City" ticket sales are soaring.
In the midst of tough times for the U.S. economy, Hollywood is still booming. Movie attendance in June rose 17 percent from last year.
Hollywood's strong sales might not be in spite of the sputtering economy, but because of it.
"Wall-E" raked in $63 million in its first weekend at the box office. The highly anticipated "Sex and the City" movie brought in nearly $57 million its opening weekend, grossing $148 million to date. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" reached $311 million worldwide in late May.
"Business is great," said Peter Adee, President of Worldwide Marketing at Overture Films. "We couldn't be happier."
"People see it as a good value and they are really watching their pennies," said Patrick Corcoran of the National Association of Theatre Owners. "And they want to get out and get entertained, and this is a very reasonable way to do it."
On average movie tickets cost about $7 -- the price is rising less than the rate of inflation. Since 1991, the price of movie tickets has risen 67 percent. While that may seem like a significant increase, by comparison, the cost of baseball tickets has more than tripled.
While Americans may be scrimping on vacations and gas, they aren't sacrificing the occasional night at the movies. In fact, going to the movies has proved to be the bargain buy for entertainment as Americans buckle down and conserve.
"It's still the cheapest entertainment," said a man who ABC News interviewed on the street. "It's cheaper than going out to dinner and it's cheaper than just about anything else in the city."
Historically, the movie business has had real success bucking bad economic trends. In five of the last seven recessions, movie ticket sales have gone up.
Even during the Great Depression, the movie houses were filled. During the late 1920s and 1930s, Americans flocked to movie theaters in the summer months, in part for the air conditioning. But more than the cool relief, the movies provided a sense of escape.
"Som times when the times are tougher you can't give up that little piece of stepping out of reality for a while," said Judy, who ABC News talked to on the streets of New York City.
"We give them a wonderful experience that is over in 90 minutes," said Adee. "They can escape whatever is going on in their lives. It's actually a wonderful thing."
Experts say the movie industry is not infallible. Movies still need to be good to attract an audience. Despite popular lead actor Michael Meyers, "The Love Guru," flopped at the box office, for example.
But with the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight" release on Friday, experts are optimistic that Hollywood can keep booming and delivering despite a grim economic forecast.