Canada looking at record boxoffice

2009 tracking up 14%-16% compared with last year

MONTREAL -- The recession has filmgoers flocking to Canadian theaters, and early returns have the market on track for record boxoffice in 2009.

On Thursday, exhibition consultant Howard Lichtman told attendees at ShowCanada 2009 that Canadian boxoffice this year is up 14%-16% compared with 2008.

"Everybody is excited about how strong the boxoffice has been in 2009. We seem headed for another record-breaking year," the president of Toronto-based Lightning Group said during his keynote address at the annual conference of Canadian theater owners.

The hits this year have been such Hollywood tentpoles as "Watchmen," "Gran Torino" and "Twilight."

Lichtman added that the strong start to 2009 comes off a solid 2008. The take last year at Canadian theaters rose 3% to CAN$932.9 million ($777 million), according to the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada.

Canadians also are dropping more money per ticket these days thanks to recent price hikes introduced by exhibitors. The boxoffice per patron in Canada is now CAN$9.14 ($7.60), compared with $7.18 in the U.S., according to MPTAC figures.

Lichtman ended his state-of-the-industry presentation by recalling the cinema slump of 2005 to underline how the exhibition business remains cyclical.

ShowCanada 2009 wraps Friday.