This will be a week of light posting. Morning headlines will return on Jan. 4. Meantime, the papers are studded with the usual end-of-year stuff, along with the requisiste (but pointless) end-of-decade reflections. About the only real news involves the holiday shopping season and the movie box office.
On Shopping: The first of what will be many retail sales reports shows a surprisingly solid 3.6 percent increase from a year ago. But that probably overstates what actually happend in November and December. For one thing, there was one more shopping day than 2008; after adjusting the numbers in order to make an apples-and-apples comparison, this year's sales are up about 1 percent, according to MasterCard Advisors, which is closer to what analysts had expected. Also, 2008 will go down as one of the worst holiday shopping years in decades so an increase in sales isn't saying much. From the NYT:
When you think of last year, the country really was in a free-fall mode," said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at SpendingPulse. "This year a lot of these numbers are generally stable to mildly positive, which is a step in the right direction." A clearer picture of consumer spending over the holiday season will emerge in January, when major chain stores report their December sales figures. Matthew F. Katz, a managing director in the retailing practice of AlixPartners, a reorganization firm, said he expected December sales to be about the same as last year, or down slightly, after the final results are tallied.
On movies: A record-breaking box office weekend, fueled by "Avatar," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." All told, ticket sales totaled $278 million, which brings the year-to-date number to $10.4 billion (the previous full-year record was $9.68 billion in 2007). As with the retail numbers, some perpsective is in order. When adjusted for inflation, not to mention the more expensive 3D/IMAX tickets, 2009 revenues are less than meets the eye. Also, the actual number of tickets sold - 1.4 billion - trails the 1.6 billion sold in 2002. Still, it's an impressive showing, especially for the James Cameron blockbuster, "Avatar," which received such positive word-of-mouth that it only lost 3 percent at the box office in its second weekend. Of course this being Hollywood there were one or two disappointments. From the LAT:
The only flop this weekend was "Nine," the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical from the Weinstein Co. and co-financier Relativity Media. The movie debuted around the country to just $5.5 million, bringing its total since last weekend to $5.9 million. The Weinstein Co. head of operations, David Glasser, said the studio will be pulling back the movie, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman, from smaller cities in the Midwest where it performed poorly and focus advertising on big coastal cities. "Nine" will need to perform extremely well in those markets and get more awards recognition to avoid being a dud for the financially troubled Weinstein Co. and Relativity, which together spent about $64 million, after the benefit of tax credits, to make the film.