Movie theaters still shine during recession

For about two hours, laugh, weep, shiver with fear, feel your adrenaline pumping — all for $10, preferably in a comfy chair, maybe with a barrel of buttered popcorn radiating warmth in your lap. Sound like a bargain?

In a downturned economy, going to the movies is an enduring entertainment option, even as family budgets lop off vacations, lavish dining and $80 bluejeans.

Still one of the cheapest out-of-home entertainment venues, movie theaters are ringing up profits with the proliferation of premium technology, such as IMAX and 3-D, and because movie-going — even during the the Great Depression — has always been driven by product: movies that people want to see.

"Because of the low cost, people don't feel bad about going to the movies. But only if they're interested in them," said Warren Miller, an analyst with Morningstar who tracks Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark, two of the country's biggest theater chains. "That's why the movies, at least theoretically, are recession-proof," he said.

At United Artists Arden Fair 6 recently, Jennifer McLaughlin and two friends perused the offerings on a recent evening.

"Compared to other things, it's not that much for entertainment," said McLaughlin, the 31-year-old mother of two.

For a family outing, the bill could come to $50, she said. She feeds the family first so they don't have to buy snacks. "That's over the line," she said.

She and her friends finally settled on "Youth in Revolt," a comedy.

While customers abandoned other retail businesses, forcing them to shrink inventory, lay off workers or file for bankruptcy in 2009, moviegoers plunked down a record $10 billion at the box office, a 10 percent boost nationwide from the year before.

To read the complete article, visit

Related stories from McClatchy DC