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Box office rebound and then some

Moviegoers watch the French film "Iznogou" in Richmond, Va.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Box office was boffo in 2006. Sorry, I couldn't resist using that word, but the movie business did very well last year. That had to be a big relief for studio execs after the disappointment of ticket sales in 2005. A lot of records were set last year. Mike Speier is the managing editor for the Daily Variety. I asked him to discuss some of the big numbers from 2006.

MIKE SPEIER: The biggest number of all is that box office has turned around and gone the right way, which is up. I mean in 2005 everybody was declaring the death of box office because it was down after a lot of years of growth and of course everyone was predicting doom and gloom, and now it's turned around. It's not a record number domestically, but it's back up. It's gone the right way and that's great news for the movie business. The other big number is that internationally it's a record. 2006 had the best year on record for international box office and that's really key because every year you get more movies opening up at the same day around the world, more territories opening up for different movies and of course if '06 was a record, you should probably expect '07 to even top that.

THOMAS: What can we expect from 2007?

SPEIER: It's gonna be a huge year. You have so many sequels of so many huge movies. You have Pirates of the Caribbean 3, you have Spider-Man 3, you have Shrek 3, you have another Harry Potter movie. All of these, all of 'em are in the same year.

THOMAS: Hedge fund money going to Hollywood, should we be surprised by that? Should we be alarmed by that?

SPEIER: Well it's a good point because hedge fund money has started to creep into Hollywood and when you have all of this money — and make no mistake, all of these hedge fund organizations and companies have tons of money to spend and that's what they're spending it on. So they're spending it on major, major movies. Some of them click, but some of 'em don't. Because remember hedge fund money financed things like Lady in the Water last year and Poseidon.

THOMAS: I don't remember that movie. Who was in that?

SPEIER: The three people who saw it remember it.

THOMAS: I'm sorry, I was one of the three so I shouldn't say that. Let me ask you about one interesting figure that came out of this data from the Motion Picture Association of America. There are more people with home entertainment technology gadgets and the people that have all those gadgets, they're going to the movies more. Can you explain that?

SPEIER: It almost defies logic because everybody a couple years ago was saying 'oh my gosh, the iPod, TiVo, everybody's staying home because why go to the movies and fight traffic?' The point is that all of these people who have all this technology, they love movies, they love entertainment. So if you make the movies glitzy, if you make them fun, if you make them huge, they're gonna go to the movies. That's what happened way back when, when the VCR came into everybody's house. Everybody said that was going to be the death of movies but instead everybody embraced it and everyone even made the movie business bigger. Because if you like this stuff, it means you like going to the movies.

THOMAS: Mike Speier is the managing editor for Daily Variety.

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