Film Industry Alive and Well, Summer Stats Prove

Network television may be on the decline, but the film industry is stronger than ever. American movie fans bought almost $3 billion worth of movie tickets over the summer of 1999, exceeding the all-time high of $2.6 billion, set the previous year. This year, 11 movies pulled in more than $100 million each, and ticket sales for the year to date are up 6%.

Some observers claim that the summer's intense heat helped push people into air-conditioned theaters. Whatever the reasons, the industry is alive and well. Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, which opened May 19, hit the $100 million gross ticket sales mark in its first five days, a new record. To date, George Lucas' "prequel" has taken in about $420 million. Other big winners included spy spoof Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which has pulled in about $205 million. The low-budget The Blair Witch Project should prove to be one of the most profitable films ever made. Projections indicate that it will do better than $140 million before it goes to video.

The $100-million-plus club includes Notting Hill and Runaway Bride, both of which star the ubiquitous Julia Roberts. Other big draws were The Mummy, Tarzan, Big Daddy, The General's Daughter, and The Wild, Wild West. Teen comedy American Pie may also finish above $100 million for the year. The phenomenal The Sixth Sense has been #1 at the box office for most of August and early September, and is projected to do over $200 million. The industry-wide full-year ticket-sales record of $6.95 billion, set last year, should be topped in 1999.