Despite the pullback in consumer spending and the ever-declining stock market, Americans continue to shell out big bucks at the box office. So far this year, box office revenue is up about 15 percent from last year with attendance numbers up nearly as much. This weekend's box office continued the pattern of growth over 2008, despite the fact that there were no big new wide releases.
Lions Gate's (LGF) Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail held up for its second weekend at the box office, topping the competition with $16.5 million. But the big winner was News Corp's Fox (NASDAQ:NWS), which showed its staying power. Slumdog Millionaire benefitted from the biggest Oscar bump since Titanic; in its 16th week in theaters managing to bring in more than $12 million at the U.S. box office, bumping its international total up to nearly $200 million. Meanwhile Fox's relatively low budget Taken, is proving a big hit-- in its fifth weekend in theaters its U.S. gross topping $100 million.
The one real disappointment this past weekend was Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. As I reported, industry-watchers expected the movie to match the $30 million opening weekend performance of last year's Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus 3-D film. The Jonas Brothers brought in just $12.5 million for the weekend, though the film's per-screen average was higher than any other film this past weekend. The Hannah Montana movie opened right at the end of the tween star's concert tour, and it was also promoted as an exclusive one-week run. The Jonas Brothers film had neither of these factors working in its favor. Are the higher ticket prices -- about $3 higher-- hurting the 3-D movie business? That's probably not it-- 3-D Coraline from Universal's Focus Features (NYSE:GE) is still holding up after five weeks in theaters.
Yes, the box office is higher and it's a remarkable silver lining in this bleak economy. But here's the rub: the movie studios and their parent companies are also facing a decline in their bread and butter, DVD sales. Take a look at the media conglomerates' stock prices-- all down more than the Dow, and you'll see that fear about the secular and cyclical decline in the DVD business is outweighing any excitement about the higher box office.