Explaining Hollywood's Christmas Miracle

Was Hollywood's record-breaking weekend due to escapism, bad weather, or just great movies?

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Last weekend, Hollywood received the Christmas gift it's been waiting for. North Americans spent $263 million at the box office making it the most tickets sold in a three-day period since the figure was first collected in 1985. It was also the first three-day weekend to boast three films that grossing $50 million or more. So why were American's flocking to the theaters this Christmas? Industry observers and business writers offer their insight:

  • Americans Wanted a Cheap Escape, surmises Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "Movies were recession-proof [and] there are a number of reasons for this. The first is that anyone can see the most popular film in the world for $9, as long as he is willing to forgo popcorn and candy. The other crucial reason is that people depressed by the bad economy and unemployment can find a two-hour escape in a film."
  • Had Something for Everyone, writes Ty Burr at Boston.com: "This suggests brilliant counterscheduling on the part of the studios, with each audience demographic offered exactly what it wanted to see." McIntyre agrees: "The kids to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel; young males to the action film Sherlock Holmes; older females to see Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in It's Complicated; and just about everyone sampling James Cameron's enviro-alien epic, Avatar."
  • Boosted By Last Week's Blizzard, reasons Linda Holmes at NPR: "It seems logical that some of what happened may have involved pent-up demand from last weekend, when many parts of the Northeastern United States were buried in a foot or two of snow and Avatar's opening may have been affected. Avatar's minuscule 3 percent drop from its first weekend to its second seems consistent with the hypothesis that some people who might have eagerly watched it last weekend went this weekend instead, contributing to the pileup."
  • I Smell a Tradition, writes Richard Corliss at Time: "The mammoth totals are the surest indication of a new Christmas Day ritual: Americans rip open their presents, gulp down the turkey dinner, speed-kiss their relatives goodbye and rush off to the multiplex."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.