Oct 21, 2018 - Business

Grab the popcorn: Booming economy sparks movie theater comeback

Box office at Regal South Beach. Photo: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images.

Economic growth has sent Americans to the movies in droves this past year, and the trend is expected to continue: Projections show the U.S. box office will make a record-breaking $12 billion in 2018 alone.

Why it matters: Movie theater admissions have been relatively stable for the past three decades, and yet box office totals are expected to be up 10% from 2017. Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), told Axios that subscription services and the date of release have a lot to do with it.

Driving the rise: Movie-goers who want an elite theater experience, including subscription perks through AMC or MoviePass, and luxury service (which can include alcohol and reclining loungers) have helped boost ticket sales. There's also been an uptick in people looking to take advantage of discounted days and matinees.

The impact: Thanks to these audiences, studios have seen far greater attendance in the off-season months (fall and spring), whereas previously they had only see such high attendance for summer blockbusters.

By the numbers: The U.S. box office has made roughly $9.3 billion in 2018 so far, nearly a 9% increase from last year, per NATO.

  • "Venom" had an $80 million debut during the Oct. 5-7 weekend — the best opening ever for that month.
  • "Black Panther," which screened after the holiday season in February, became the third-best showing of all time at $700 million in the U.S.

What to watch: If the box office were to flop the rest of the year, U.S. movies would still rake in roughly $11.8 billion. Corcoran said.

  • The most-anticipated November movies "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch," "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," "The Nutcracker" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet."
  • December: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," "Mary Poppins Returns," "Aquaman" and "Bumblebee."

What's next

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

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What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.