I groaned out loud back in August when I found out about the record-breaking summer 2009 box office profits. Now we’re hearing new projections stating that when New Year’s Eve rolls over into New Year’s Day, the movie industry will have crossed a box office milestone, with profits predicted to exceed the $10 billion mark.

I’m sure we’d all be happy that our favorite medium was thriving in the midst of sharp economic downturn – that is, if so many movies hadn’t turned out to be crap this year. Now, the only thing I’m wondering (and you should too) is: “What lesson will Hollywood take from this?”

Variety is the publication cracking open the profit prediction. If you go back and read our Summer 2009 box office analysis, it explains in depth how a portion of these ‘milestone profits’ were generated by blockbuster sequels, prequels and reboots released in the middle of the calender year. We already know that the beginning of 2009, while not exactly record-setting, still managed to squeeze out some nice gold nuggets for the industry, with films like Watchmen, Monsters vs. Aliens, Quantum of Solace – a Tyler Perry flick here, a Disney 3D concert film there – all helping to bring in the money.

Looking ahead, Variety pegs Holiday Season offerings like  James Cameron’s Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel to build on the money-raking momentum of Fall hits like The Twilight Saga: New Moon, A Christmas Carol, and  2012 – all of which have now grossed over $100 million –  in order to boost the 2009 box office tally over that coveted $10 billion mark.

Another big factor in the 2009 movie profit margin? Unexpected hits. Thank Paul Blart: Mall CopSlumdog Millionaire, Taken, a couple of Sandra Bullock flicks (The Proposal, The Blindside), a couple of raunchy-comedies (The Hangover, Couple’s Retreat) and some low-budget success stories (District 9 and Paranormal Activity) for giving the 2009 box office a boost it never saw coming.

A few of the surprise hits in 2009…

2008 was also a record-breaking year for the movie industry: $9.64 billion in sales. And you can argue about inflation, increased ticket prices, even pricier 3D and IMAX offerings or whatever… but as of now, in 2009, domestic ticket sales alone are up 8% over 2008 figures and attendance is up 3% – those are telling statistics. Not to mention: the current projections are calling for the box office to jump the $10 billion mark, not just crawl over it. Those kinds of numbers make it hard to argue that the movie business has its head up its you-know-what in terms of creativity, diverse offerings, quality films that people want to see, etc., etc…

But how do you feel as the consumer? Was 2009 a year you’ll remember with a fond smile on your face when you think of the movies?

I already know that this Summer was for sure a disappointing string of letdowns and missed opportunities (Transformers 2 and Wolverine, I’m looking at you guys…). But then again, for every Terminator Salvation, there was also an UP and a Star Trek to revel in; during the Fall season, The Road was there to wash the bad taste of New Moon from my mouth. Back in Winter/Spring, I hardly made it out to the movies (little to see, IMHO), however, now, I find myself watching a 3.5 hour cut of Watchmen over and over again, still debating how I feel about that film. So in the end, looking back, I guess I’m on the fence…

What I personally hope is that Hollywood looks back on 2009 and focuses on the truly original works that made huge money, realizing that it’s A-ok to take a chance on something. I hope they look at the low-budget-turned-high-profit wunderkids and realize that a big-budget has nothing on good storytelling and skillful filmmaking. I hope they look at the Summer sequels that made bank but had fans feeling underwhelmed and realize that a franchise can pump out a half-cooked sequel and fool fans once, but fans WILL take note and demand more of the next go-round. I hope all of these things…

Some of the good, bad and ugly of 2009

…But what are we likely to get? Well, if you’ve been following the news here at Screen Rant, then you already know that remakes/reboots/prequels and nostalgic adaptations still seem to be the entree du jour for 2010-2011, and there is no shortage of sequels packed in the pipeline, either. Not to say there aren’t some bright rays of hope – Iron Man 2, Kenneth’s Branagh’s Thor, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation, The Avengers, Kick-Ass, and some new projects from the always-creative J.J. Abrams, to name a few… But you’ll have to read about those in Screen Rant‘s upcoming 2010 and 2011 movie preview posts!

For now, one can only wonder if the perfect storm of factors in 2009 – unexpected hits, recession constraints boosting movie attendance – can ever be duplicated. Sure, the box office benchmark set this year could very well be broken next year – but we’ll probably be back to pointing our fingers at 3D and inflation as the reasons for it when that time inevitably comes.

Looking back (and slightly ahead) at 2009, what do you make of the big time box office profits?

Source: Variety