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Recession Actually Helping Not Hurting Hollywood

Hollywood enjoyed its first billion dollar gross ever in January, a traditionally slow month for ticket sales, and is now looking forward to even bigger grosses in February. Not only isn’t the recession hurting the movie business, it actually seems to be helping it.

“As the momentum continues and audiences continue to embrace the moviegoing habit,” Media by Numbers’ boxoffice analyst Paul Dergarabedian observed recently, “there is no question that going to the movies has become a favorite recessionary pastime.” Clearly, people want to escape from the grim reality of sinking 401Ks, plunging stocks, troubled banks and job cuts and the easiest and cheapest way for them to do so is by heading to the nearest movie theater and forgetting about everything else for a few hours.

Here’s our ZAMM.com look at some of the key films arriving throughout February, a month that once again will bring jam-packed movie weekends promising something for everyone. There are spoilers in some of the plot synopses that follow, so please be careful reading these if you don’t want to know too much about the films’ stories before you see them. As always, check out our Zamm Cam movie previews to see if these are films you think you’ll enjoy. You’ll know in one minute which movies are the ones you most want to see.

February’s first weekend (Feb. 6-8) will see four wide releases go into theaters. One of the biggest potential boxoffice hits is MGM and Columbia Pictures’ comedy franchise “Pink Panther 2”. It’s a brand name comedy with a big star in Steve Martin and sounds like just what the doctor ordered for surviving the recession with a few laughs.

Directed by Harald Zwart, “Pink Panther 2” stars Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Emily Mortimer, Aishwarya Rai, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin, John Cleese, Yuki Matsuzaki, Emma “Baby” Bunton and Molly Sims. Martin once again plays French police Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the role originated by Peter Sellers in the original 1964 hit “The Pink Panther”. Martin first played it in a 2006 version of the original, which grossed $82.2 million domestically and gave the franchise a new lease on life.

This time around Inspector Clouseau teams up with a squad of International detectives who are just as bumbling as he is. Their mission is to stop a globetrotting thief who specializes in stealing historical artifacts.

Zwart directed the 2003 comedy adventure “Agent Cody Banks”, which starred Frankie Muniz and Hilary Duff. Zwart is now preparing to direct a remake of the 1984 hit “The Karate Kid”, to star Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith in the role originated by Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan in the role created by Pat Morita. The picture, which Will Smith is producing through his Overbrook Entertainment, will be filmed in Beijing this spring or early summer.

Warner Bros. and New Line’s romantic comedy “He’s Just Not That Into You”, directed by Ken Kwapis and starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kris Kristofferson, Justin Long, Sasha Alexander, Wilson Cruz and Corey Pearson.

“He’s Just Not That Into You” is another good comedy candidate for anyone in need of recession escape time. It should do particularly well with young women, a great audience because they either come in girlfriend groups or drag along their boyfriends or husbands.

The film presents stories of a group of interconnected, Baltimore-based twenty-and-thirty-somethings as they navigate their various relationships from the shallow end of the dating pool through the deep, murky waters of married life. Trying to read the signs of the opposite sex, each hopes to be the exception to the “no exceptions” rule.

Ken Kwapis directed the 2005 romantic comedy “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, which has since turned into a franchise for Warner Bros. He’s also directed 11 episodes of “The Office” as well as the 2007 comedy “License to Wed”, starring Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski.

Also arriving in theaters Feb. 6 is Focus Features’ animated 3D fantasy “Coraline”, directed by Henry Selick. Its voice talents include: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey, Carrie Genzel and Keith David.

Henry Selick directed the 1993 animated fantasy “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas”, which was nominated in 1993 for a best visual effects Oscar. Among Selick’s other directing credits are the 1996 animated fantasy “James and the Giant Peach” and the 2001 animated fantasy “Monkeybone”.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s novel of the same name, Coraline is a young bored girl who discovers that the bricked-up wall behind a door in her home leads to another world, with another mother, and another father. Coraline steps into the world that appears to be a better version of her own reality, but when her artificial parents attempt to keep her there forever, she must escape the dangerous situation and take a brave journey to get back home.

Rounding out the weekend of Feb. 6-8 is Summit Entertainment’s sci-fi thriller “Push”, directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Djimon Hounsou, Nate Mooney, Scott Michael Campbell, Sherri Shepherd and Maggie Siff.

In “Push” a group of young American expatriates with telekinetic and clairvoyant abilities hide from a U.S. government agency in Beijing. They must use their different talents and band together for a final job enabling them to escape the agency forever.

Paul McGuigan directed the 2006 crime thriller “Lucky Number Slevin”, starring Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley.

Hollywood loves four-day holiday weekends and will make the most of the President’s Day weekend of Feb. 13-16, launching three wide releases that all look like they have a shot at doing big business at the boxoffice.

Feb. 13 is kick-off day for Disney’s romantic comedy drama “Confessions of a Shopaholic”, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise) and directed by P.J. Hogan. Starring are Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas, Fred Armisen, Leslie Bibb, Christine Ebersole, Julie Hagerty, Krysten Ritter, Wendie Malick, Lynn Redgrave and Robert Stanton.

In “Confessions of a Shopaholic” a 25-year-old woman who investigates bank fraud deals with the stress of her job by endlessly shopping. She ends up hopelessly in debt, but her work leads to love when she becomes romantically involved with a man she is investigating. It’s a storyline that should resonate with any number of young women (and young men, too) in these recessionary times!

P.J. Hogan’s directing credits include the critically acclaimed 1995 comedy drama “Muriel’s Wedding”, starring Toni Collette, and the 1997 romantic comedy “My Best Friend's Wedding”, starring Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz and Rupert Everett, which grossed $127.1 million domestically.

Also on deck for Feb. 13 is Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “Friday the 13th”, directed by Marcus Nispel and starring Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Aaron Yoo, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle and Derek Mears. Nispel directed the 2007 thriller “Pathfinder”, starring Karl Urban, Moon Bloodgood and Russell Means.

In this re-imagining of the classic horror film, Clay (Jared Padalecki) searches for his missing sister in the eerie woods of legendary Crystal Lake, where he stumbles on the creaky remains of rotting old cabins behind moss-covered trees. And that’s not the only thing lying in wait under the brush. Against the advice of police and cautions from the locals, Clay pursues what few leads he has, with the help of a young woman he meets among a group of college kids up for an all-thrills weekend. But they are about to find much more than they bargained for. Little do they know, they’ve entered the domain of one of the most terrifying specters in American film history — the infamous killer who haunts Crystal Lake, armed with a razor-sharp machete… Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears).

Suspense thriller fans won’t be left out President’s Weekend thanks to Sony’s “The International”, directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Brian F. O'Byrne, Ulrich Thomsen and Jack McGee.

In “The International”, a determined Interpol agent tries to bring down the world’s most influential banker who serves as financier and money launderer to the largest and most violent criminal and terrorist organizations.

Tom Tykwer’s directing credits include the critically acclaimed 1999 crime thriller “Run, Lola, Run”, starring Franka Potente, and the 2002 crime thriller “Heaven”, starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi.

The weekend of Feb. 20-22 is a relatively quiet one with only two new wide releases. Sony will be going after the romantic comedy audience with “Fired Up”, directed by Will Gluck and starring Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer, Danneel Harris, John Michael Higgins, Molly Sims, Margo Harshman, Edie McClurg, Philip Baker Hall, Lil’ Mama, Jake Sandvig, Annalynne McCord, Hayley Marie Norman, Collins Pennie and Adhir Kalyan.

“Fired Up” marks Will Gluck’s directorial debut. His writing credits include 12 episodes of “The Loop” and four episodes of “Grosse Pointe”.

In “Fired Up” two guys, Nick and Shawn, decide a two week stint at a Cheerleaders’ Camp is the perfect opportunity to score tons of meaningless romantic liaisons with lonely girls in tight-tops and short-short skirts. But their lusty plan to caress as many pom-poms as possible goes awry when one of them falls in love.

Also arriving Feb. 20 is Lionsgate’s comedy Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail“, directed by Tyler Perry and starring Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Ion Overman, Ron Reaco Lee, Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Ferlito, Viola Davis, Tamela J. Mann, David Mann and Keke Palmer.

In the film Madea’s nephew works at the local prison and has a part-time job to support his family while his wife attends school for her master’s degree. One morning, Madea’s nephew — unaware of where his aunt has spent the night — goes to work and finds Madea (Tyler Perry) in jail with some real convicts!

Two more wide releases will round out the month of February when they arrive the weekend of Feb. 27 - Mar. 1. Disney’s documentary “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience”, is directed by Bruce Hendricks and stars Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas.

The film is a 3-D concert film of the 2008 Jonas Brothers “Burning Up” concert tour as well as documentary footage on the lives of the three brothers. Bruce Hendricks directed Disney’s hit 2008 documentary “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour”.

Last but certainly not least on our February countdown is 20th Century Fox’s action adventure “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”, directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak and starring Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou, Moon Bloodgood, Josie Ho, Taboo, Michael Clarke Duncan and Rick Yune.

Based on the legendary video game, “Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li” brings a new dimension to a world and characters beloved by millions. Devastated by the kidnapping of her father, Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) takes to the streets of Hong Kong, embarking on an epic quest for justice and hurtling toward a confrontation with a seemingly unstoppable foe.