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Housefull again

Next year?s slate, observers say, could prove the most potent lineup of sluggers since 2002, which set the box office record with $9.3 billion in ticket sales in the USA and Canada.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2006 00:09 IST

So much for the death of the cineplex. After a three-year attendance slide and dire forecasts that theaters would succumb to DVDs and home entertainment centres, going out to the movies is back. 2006 appears to be on its way to an increase in ticket sales and an end to Hollywood’s attendance slump.

And with a raft of franchise films coming out next year, including a trio of expected blockbusters in May, studio executives are looking at 2007 as a possible record-breaker. They say the key to this year’s success — and the secret to 2007 — maybe in lowering their expectations.

Sure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest shattered box office records, including the largest opening weekend, on its way to $423 million domestically.

But Pirates was the only movie this year to cross the $300 million mark, and only five films took in more than $200 million. In comparison with 2005, eight films raked in more than $200 million.

Instead, studios surged with mid-range hits such as The Devil Wears Prada, Nacho Libre and The Departed, movies that took in $80 million to $125 million by appealing to more specific audiences.

Next year’s slate, observers say, could prove the most potent lineup of sluggers since 2002, which set the box office record with $9.3 billion in ticket sales in the USA and Canada. The battle of the third acts will pit Spider-Man 3, Shrekthe Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End against one another.

Many analysts give the early edge to Pirates, because the second film ended on a cliffhanger and comes just a year after this year’s biggest movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Add to that new installments of Harry Potter, Fantastic Four, Die Hard and the Bourne series, and executives say there’s reason to hope the three-year slump is over.

Studios are on the constant prowl for blockbusters that are equally popular with men and women, young and old. But those must-see films can also disappoint, because you have to impress people twice as much.

Even studio honchos concede they have over-marketed films in recent years and have been forced to scale back the fanfare behind their releases. But no one has talked about movies this year the way parents did. If any niche proved nearly fail-safe in 2006, it was the family film, particularly animated movies. Four of 2006’s top 10 movies were animated, the most ever.

Expect another plethora of animated fare in 2007, including The Simpsons Movie, Happily N'Ever After and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

— USA Today