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Box office squeeze
Even superheroes struggle to surmount hard times
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Forsyth County News

The struggling economy wasn't going to stop Jasun Cohen and wife Brandy from watching the new Batman movie.

"It's 'The Dark Knight,' you have to go," Cohen said Tuesday afternoon.

The latest installment in the caped crusader movies had an opening weekend record with about $158 million in box office sales.

While "The Dark Knight" is expected to be the summer's biggest blockbuster, it is one of the few movies drawing crowds at Movies 400 in Cumming during the current economic downturn.

"They came out for Batman, but we're a lot slower than we were last year," said Kim Haynes, manager. "People are putting more money into gas instead of spending that little extra for entertainment."

Haynes estimated that business is down about 30 percent compared to last year, when gas cost about $1.10 less a gallon.

Because of the hype around the Batman film, Haynes said the movie has drawn heavy crowds. But now that interest in summer hits like "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" are fading, the recent pickup could be short lived.

"Anytime you turn around, something else has gone up," Haynes said. "Some people I guess get depressed about it.
"I think movies also might be a big thing. There's not a lot of great movies coming out ... you don't see the ones that are highly anticipated like we used to."

She said "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," the third movie in that series, may do well when it debuts next month, but it may not be "as big as Batman."

With 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe,' which opens this weekend, Haynes said, "I think you'll have the people who were hooked on the TV show."

"But I usually can tell something is going to be big by how we book it, and [we] only have one print for it and not a lot of showtimes."

Because it's only been open since May, AMC The Avenue Forsyth 12 doesn't have previous numbers for comparison.
AMC spokesman Andy DiOrio said the big summer movies help draw the crowds. But with the cost of a movie still less than sporting events or concerts, there hasn't been much of a slump for the new theater.

"I wouldn't say movies are recession-proof," he said. "Our business overall provides an escape. Typically during the time of recession periods or down economies, overall industry box office numbers have climbed or remained steady during those years."

For Melanie Anderson's family, going to the movies Tuesday was a special treat. Anderson took her two children and two nephews to the movies "because my sister is buying a house and I'm keeping her kids [for a week]."

"I'm trying to find fun things to do for them this week," she said. "With the economy, we've definitely slowed down on everything ... we haven't taken any of our trips this year.

"We normally don't come to the movies during the week. There has to be a big kids movie for us to bring them, but this is a special week."

Teresa Nahabedian took her son, David, and his friend, Cornel Dupreez, to see "Journey to the Center of the Earth," Tuesday as a reward for cleaning out the garage.

When seeing children's movies with the family, Nahabedian said she tries to see the less expensive matinees to help cut costs.

June and Orlando Velez have given up other extras to avoid sacrificing enjoying movies.

"We're probably seeing more movies than before, because we're not going out to eat as much," Orlando Velez said.

Added his wife,  "This is our entertainment. This is our choice."

While people may still be willing to spend money at theaters, the movie still needs to be a quality film.

"It's like the old quote from 'Field of Dreams,' 'If you build it, they will come,'" DiOrio said. "If you build a great product or film, people will come out and see it.

"I think the studios realize ... if the product is there, the guests will definitely be there as well."