Cinema may indeed be recession proof but the third-quarter figures for international markets do not suggest a rush to the multiplex escapism.
Global box office for Q3 generated approximately $7.28bn in ticket sales compared with 2007. That translated into roughly a 0.5% revenue decline and a drop in admissions in the neighbourhood of 6% or 7%.
Given the economic difficulties, comfort can be drawn from a relatively flat picture year-on-year.
But there are worries in the numbers. The new generation of viewers in such countries as China and Russia that had the industry salivating as a result of annual double digit growth appears to have leveled off and it's unclear if they will get their movie fix from ancillary arenas including DVD, cable, satellite and iPod delivery systems.
The international arena accounted for $4.64bn of the total and that sector was in fact slighter better than 1% improved from Q3 '07. The domestic sector, however, experienced a 4% comparative year-to-year erosion.
International box office exceeded the North American tally for the period by 75%; another sizeable improvement from the second quarter when the bump was about 35%.
Revenues in the third quarter were largely propelled by summer blockbusters from the American majors. However, in the rest of the world one could see which nations had relegated local cinemas to a summer vacation by the fluctuations in their box office.
China and South Korea, for instance, experienced radical drops in theatrical gross as a result of a pared back schedule of indigenous releases.
The former had Red Cliff and the latter The Good, the Bad, the Weird with little else backing up those titles. Conversely, India and Japan took an aggressive approach to the summer with such films as Ponyo on a Cliff and Boys With Flowers successfully competing with American movies in Japan and Singh is Kinng emerging as the top grosser in India.
Most European nations sat out the season and wound up seeing slightly diminished returns and a noticeable drop in admissions. Not a single picture in Spanish, French, German or Italian figured into the top 50 grossers for the period whereas 15 films in Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Hindi figured in that group.
Universal International ranked first in the international sector with a 19.8% market share and a $921 million tally from such films as Mamma Mia!, Wanted and the third outing of The Mummy. Toho was the top non-U.S. company with a 7.2% market share and Summit was the top independent with 1.2% slice of the pie.
The domestic sector was dominated by Warner Bros. and The Dark Knight and finished the period with a staggering 29.7% market share.
A lot of ink has been spilt in the last month about the film industry being recession-proof but the evidence on hand indicates the claim is over blown.
Historically some studies have demonstrated that downturns in movie going occur belatedly and tend to be less severe than for other industrial and social activities. But they do happen and based upon the fluctuations in 2008 alone, going forward is going to be a bumpy ride.