Hollywood Industries

The industry is still catching its breath from news that Fast & Furious, the fourth film in Universal Studios' street-racing series, just tore up the record for the most lucrative opening weekend for a movie released in April, and now studio bosses are hoping that 2009 might be the first year that they reap more than $10bn (6.8bn) in ticket sales.

Adding in the $71m just taken by Fast & Furious, receipts are up by 15 per cent so far this year, and only a little part of that is because of inflation in ticket prices. Attendances are up 13 per cent, too. Just about every other part of the leisure industry has found itself under duress since the recession began and consumers began drawing in their horns.

But the cinema is "recession-proof", says Brandon Gray, the president of Box Office Mojo, which collates box office data. "It would take a near-cataclysm to keep people away from theatres. There is always a place for art. People need the movies, they inspire, they provide catharsis, they make people laugh, they thrill them - and all that is needed now more than ever."

Fast & Furious, starring Vin Diesel, is good escapist fare, a straight-out-the-box welding of cars, guns and attractive women. But more nuanced films have also been hits. The "$100m club" of six movies with the biggest box office take in 2009 includes Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire. Sleeper success stories such as the Liam Neeson thriller Taken and Kevin James's comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop have been hits for stars who have not previously carried a hit movie. It is not the type of movies that are on offer, so much as the value that movies offer which is driving people to the multiplex.

Gitesh Pandya, the editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com, says: "This is happening across almost every genre. We always expect a certain type of movie to do a certain amount of business at a certain time of year, but this year, a lot of movies are over-performing against expectations, not just one or two. Going to the movies is cheap and easy. Theatres are everywhere, there's a steady supply of commercial films, and a ticket is cheaper than any other type of entertainment outside the home."