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KAI RYSSDAL: Yes, I realize school's not even out yet. But still, summer is upon us. How do we know? Because Hollywood says so. The summer movie season starts today, with the latest installment of the X-Men franchise. It could give Hollywood some idea of what the Great Recession has in store for it. Because as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports, there are a lot of potential blockbusters on the way.
Jeremy Hobson: "X-Men" is what's known in Hollywood as a "tent pole" movie. If you've never heard of that, here's entertainment industry analyst Hal Vogel.
Hal Vogel: Just as you would outside on a lawn, you have a tent pole and it supports presumably the rest of the tent.
The blockbuster films are the tent poles. And there could be a lot this year. This month alone, "Angels and Demons" and "Star Trek" will hit theaters.
Vogel: The film really has to lead the box office by a wide margin in order to do what it's supposed to do.
What it's supposed to do is make so much money that it pays for itself -- that's at least a hundred million dollars -- and helps cover the rest of the studio's productions. Especially the flops. Our own unscientific survey in New York's Times Square indicates this weekend's tent pole should stand up. Moviegoers were practically unanimous.
PERSON 1: We're going to see X-Men tonight.
PERSON 2: X-Men.
PERSON 3: I'm here to see X-Men: Wolverine. And I'm hyped for it, cause I love wolverines and I love the X-Men.
You get the picture. And the idea is that all those people will be tempted by trailers and come back.
Patrick Corcoran: Movie-going breeds movie-going.
Patrick Corcoran is with the National Association of Theater Owners. He says there is one drawback to so many big movies -- they push each other out of the theaters too fast. Studios learned that lesson two summers ago.
Corcoran: After the summer was over, a lot of studio executives were willing to say that they'd left a couple of hundred million dollars behind because the marketplace was so crowded.
In other words, it pays to spread the tent poles out.
In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.