A journalist on one of those pretentious radio programmes that podcasts have brought back into the mainstream was this week interviewing a pointy-headed intellectual about the nature of inevitability.

The intrepid hack, clearly out of his depth, threw in what he imagined would be a trump card - that old maxim about death and taxes being the only certainties - to which he received a wearily dismissive reply: 'Oh, I'm sure we'll have dealt with both of those in the next 50 years.'

The notion that nothing can really be taken for granted makes for a nice cloud to attach to a week of silver linings, which seem to support the oft-stated assertion that people will always want the cinema.

We've seen a record-breaking opening weekend in the US, a tip-top half-year in Germany and a somewhat overblown but justifiably upbeat assessment of the UK box office from the national film body.

While the world's economy is fraying at the seams, we can take a quantum of solace from the idea this is the business that can not only survive the downturn but perhaps even benefit from it.

It would appear the world hasn't moved on all that much since the days when the Okies in the dustbowls would pack the cinemas, where the unacceptable face of capitalism was momentarily hidden behind the delightfully acceptable mask of the big-screen gods.

Bread and circuses are still doing the trick although these days we seem to prefer our escapism moody and violent (for all the critics' praise of The Dark Knight's allegorical messages and dark genius, it remains escapism in the classical sense).

So if it shifts tickets, by all means bring on the slings and arrows of economic misfortune. But the idea that customers will always support the theatre is, of course, an ahistorical viewpoint.

A couple of decades ago, the tumbleweed was rolling through empty auditoria all over the world and the image of the closed-down flea-pit with its faded posters peeling from crumbling walls became a cliched image of an industry supposedly in decline.

The bounceback owed more to the Joni Mitchell line about 'you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone' and an industry that took a big risk on reshaping the future through multiplexes and home entertainment.

But let's not forget that industry is far from recession-proof. The closure of Deutsche Bank's film division and the suspension of a $450m finance deal with Paramount is a reminder the credit crunch can bite very hard indeed. The private-equity boom appears to have hit the buffers in Hollywood and that will inevitably have an impact right through the value chain.

This week in the UK, a report from the UK Film Council talked of an industry in rude health, pointing to a great boom in Brit films at the box office. And it saw a rude reply from sections of the media which pointed out a great many 'British' films were in fact Hollywood productions with an Oxford accent.

Screen has always been highly circumspect about such figures and in the end, it is almost impossible to draw a clear line between local and studio. A sizeable part of the boom in local-language production around the world has resulted from US studios throwing their distribution and sometimes financial weight behind 'national' movies.

But the question for the industry in the UK and elsewhere is whether a credit crunch will reduce studio production, leading to a drop in location shoots. The problem is that this is not an industry where an upturn in customer demand translates easily into industrial growth.

Blockbuster box office has traditionally been more about muscle-flexing than profits, especially when money was coming from tax schemes and, later, hedge funds.

In international markets, finance has depended on government subsidy or tax schemes that have attracted investors - a la The Producers - on the idea they will make losses that can be written off against tax, rather than profits.

Throw in the destabilising effect of digital change in TV and film and you realise nothing can now be taken for granted. But for the industry as a whole, don't assume sunnier days will follow one Dark Knight.

What do you think' Email michael.gubbins@emap.com