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Summer months mean extra business for movie theaters

By ALLISON MILES
July 1, 2010 at 2:01 a.m.
Updated July 3, 2010 at 2:03 a.m.

Ryan Hicks, 11, of Edna, watches a preview before "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" movie starts at the Ganado Cinema.

BY THE NUMBERS

Number of United States movie screens through the years:

2000: 36,379

2001: 35,506

2002: 35,688

2003: 35,650

2004: 36,435

2005: 37,688

2006: 38,415

2007: 38,794

2008: 38,834

2009: 39,233*

*As of Dec. 6, 2009

Source: National Association of Theatre Owners websiteAVERAGE U.S. TICKET PRICES

2000: $5.39

2001: $5.65

2002: $5.80

2003: $6.03

2004: $6.21

2005: $6.41

2006: $6.55

2007: $6.88

2008: $7.18

2009: $7.50

*Adjusted for inflation, the average movie ticket costs less now than it did in 1969.

Source: National Association of Theatre Owners website

With the revved-up grills, kiddo cannonballs bounding into pools and ever-increasing temperatures, it's official. Summer is here.

But, while outdoor activities are all well and good, they aren't the only form of entertainment. Many people seek refuge from the scorching sun with a movie on the silver screen.

Business heats up for movie theaters during summertime.

The industry brings in about 40 percent of the year's revenue during the summer months, said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theatre Owners. Last year's total box officerevenue hit $10.6 billion nationwide, he said, explaining about $4.3 billion came in during the summer.

He attributed much of that increase to school vacations, which allows people more leisure time.

Alvin Svoboda owns the Ganado Cinema, a one-screen theater in Ganado. He admitted that running a small theater differs from manning larger ones, but said he also sees seasonal business increases.

While the big boys can usher in all new releases as they come out, he picks and chooses which films to show. He caters to the crowd he knows will come in, sticking mainly to films rated G, PG or PG-13.

"Letters to Juliet," for instance, recently wrapped in Ganado and did well, despite the fact it had been released a couple of months before.

It can be frustrating not being able to show multiple films at once, Svoboda said, but it carries advantages, too. If a movie bombs at bigger sites, he knows not to get it.

Theaters can do their part to drive up summer business, too.

El Campo's Showplace 3 Cinema offers $1 summer children's shows on Wednesdays during the summer, which brings in a number of children and families, said John Knudsen, who works at the theater.

Showplace 3 prepares for heavier-than usual traffic by boosting its concession orders, said Knudsen, who is also studying radio, television and film at the University of Texas at Austin. The theater also maintains a friendly relationship with other nearby theaters, he said, which helps when supplies do run low.

"If we get close to running out, we can go pick some up from them," he said. "You don't want to run out of popcorn."

Overall, the industry has done well, not only when it comes to the summer months.

Although many industries find themselves tightening their belts and cutting back during economic downturns, the movie industry typically fares better, according to data from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Box office and admissions numbers have increased during six of the last eight recessions and, in 2009, global box office numbers hit an all-time high at $30 billion, according to the association's website.

So far, the national industry is ahead of 2009, although summer has fallen slightly behind, Corcoran said. But he sees that turning around quickly.

"I think we'll pull fairly even, with 'Eclipse' doing as well as it's doing," he said, explaining the film made $30 million in midnight showings Tuesday. "That's a record."

Ganado has fared well, too.

"Really and truly, I had the best May I've ever had in the history of the theater," Svoboda said, adding he's worked there since 1957 but owned it for 33 years. "In fact, this year, we're running a little ahead of last year."

He said he thinks he's weathered the recession partly because, with people keeping a closer eye on their wallets, they aren't traveling out of town as much. That means more Crossroads residents are around to take in a film.

James Leaks, a Victoria Walmart employee, said he enjoys taking in a movie during summer because it gives him quiet time in the air conditioning and he can spend time with his girlfriend.

As for Terrie Gossett, however, she'd rather rent movies and watch them from the comfort of her own home.

"There are so many people at the movies," she said, explaining children in the audience can be distracting.

Gossett will make it to at least one film, however.

She plans to gather up friends to see "Eclipse." Those movies are the only ones she's recently seen in theaters.

"And I know my boyfriend won't go see that with me," Gossett said, laughing.

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