Poor Hollywood? Not $o Fast

Every week there is more news that studios, agencies and production companies are tallying mounting layoffs. The assumption is that Hollywood has hit some choppy waters and the once flush Tinseltown is in danger of economic desiccation. Yet, even while economists predict that things will worsen, January box office numbers suggest that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem. And unsurprisingly, the industry is mum. There’s nary a mention of this news in any of the trades today, which is why we’re lucky to have Nikki Finke.

Here, Finke sets the record straight. She also suggests a motive for the tight-lipped numbers game—and rest assured, it has absolutely nothing to do with a pending SAG strike (yeah, right).

From Deadline Hollywood Daily:

…compliant Hollywood news outlets are hardly publicizing the latest big bold movie precedent set this month. MediaByNumbers.com was first to spread the news Sunday: from January 1, 209 to February 1st, 2009, year-to-date North American grosses were $1.028 billion, compared to 2008’s January take of $867.2 million. And let’s not forget that every week this January the studios boasted to me how cheaply they made and marketed all these films that did so well. So revenue was up 18.57%. Attendance was up 16.78%.

Yet there’s no lead story about this $1B gross benchmark in either Variety or The Hollywood Reporter. At the same time, NBC set a record and sold out its Super Bowl ads for $201 million. But that isn’t prominent in the trades either. Here’s what I think: the studios and networks want this good news played on the downlow in Hollywood (as opposed to the layoffs bulletins) when the AMPTP is restarting contract talks with SAG’s “task force”—aka the newly configured negotiating committee—on Tuesday. Because isn’t it amazing how Big Media can keep making so much money but never filter it down to either their staff or the showbiz guilds?

Sure enough, Variety reported on Superbowl ratings, but said nothing about its revenue.