Hollywood could set a record at the US box office

MUMBAI: 2004 has been a financial bonanza for Hollywood who cranked out mega hits like Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Spiderman 2 and Shrek 2.

Ticket sales in the US are expected to reach $9.4 billion. If this happens then it would squeak past 2002's record of $9.3 billion. However the December take vis-a-vis what was achieved in 2002 could be affected by the fact that there is no The Lord of The Rings movie.

Also fewer Americans are visiting cinema halls. The number of tickets actually sold will fall to roughly 1.5 billion from 1.53 billion last year and 1.6 billion in 2002. The higher box office take is being fuelled by a rise in the average ticket prices.

Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian was quoted in reports noting that the average cost of a cinema ticket could be as high as $6.25 in 2004, compared to $5.80 in 2002. What is good is that all the big hits did not come from major studios. Examples of this were The Passion of the Christ and the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 which has made over $ 100 million.

Thanks toSpiderman 2 and The Grudge, Sony Pictures is expected to top the US market share for the second time in three years, with $1 billion-plus in sales for the third consecutive year. The horror flick The Grudge cost Sony $10 million to make but brought in $110 million.

Then there are films that did well with audiences but did not make pots of money. An example is Sideways which the New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago film critics felt was the best film of the year.

While Spider-Man 2 raked in $373 million, the film only came in second place for the year, behind Dreamworks' Shrek 2 which saw mega greenbacks with $436 million. The Passion of the Christ made $370 million, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made $249 million and Pixar's animated The Incredibles which is still playing in theaters has made $236 million to date.

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