The Economic Resilience of the Movies

In 2008 when much of the economy was in decline and unemployment was on the rise, the movie industry had a happier story to tell.

In during the great recession in 2007 and 2008, instead of seeing a sharp decline in movie ticket purchases there was instead there was minimal change. Movie ticket sales and the health of our economy are not correlated and therefore box office performance is not a good indicator of the state of our economy.

The box offices’ struggles are not aligned with the rest of the economy. In away they are immune from traditional market down turns.

At first glance, the film industry doing well doing a recession seems counterintuitive. Entertainment is generally seen as an extra budget item that would be cut when money is tighter. However, the movies are like an escape from the real world. When times are tough people can take refuge in the world of the movies. Therefore, the film industry instead of experiencing a slump during the recession it continued to succeed.

The top grossing films of 2007 and 2008 were Spider-Man 3 and The Dark Knight respectively. Both films provide an element of fantasy and heroism. They have the ability to transport the viewer to a different world, one that isn’t their economically dim reality. They gave an escape people craved.

Box office sales did not take a major hit during the great recession, however, they have been hit with a subtle decline in recent history. According to The Numbers, the peak of movie ticket sales was 2002 when approximately 1.5 billion tickets were sold. That is almost 200 million more tickets sold than in 2016.

The decline in box office sales could be a reflection of the changing economy of how we watch movies. There has been a trend towards watching movies at home rather than in theaters. A 2006 Pew Research study found that 75% of Americans would rather watch a movie at home than in a theater up from 67% in 1995. The Pew study is supported by a 2015 CBS News poll which found that a majority of Americans preferred watching movies at home and 84% of Americans watch more movies at home than in theaters

One of the factors in declining movie theater ticket sales is online streaming, with Netflix being the biggest player in the streaming field. In the same time period where movie ticket sales have been declining Netflix has been expanding its subscriber base. Netflix has gone from almost 7.5million subscribers in 2007 to almost 100 million domestic and international subscribers, according to Business Insider and Statista.

The movie industry has been for the most part immune to the ups and downs of the economy. Box office sales are not the key to unlocking the health of the economy, rather they tell us something about the psyche of the nation. Even when times are tough we crave the escapism that the movies provide. Through the ups and downs of the economy, the movies have proved to be resilient.

 

Sources: 

The Numbers 

Business Insider 

Fortune 

Pew Research

CBS News

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