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Why Careful Shoppers Are Great for the Box Office

PKeleher

Cash-strapped, bargain shoppers are a great thing for Hollywood box office performance.

This Thanksgiving weekend broke box office records — the highest-ever box office performance for the long five-day holiday weekend.

The weekend alone was up 15 percent from last year and Thanksgiving day itself generated record box office revenues. At the same time 23 million more consumers visited stores and Web sites, but the total amount spent was pretty much flat with last year.

This is NO COINCIDENCE.

Consumer Nation Holiday Central Edition
Consumer Nation Holiday Central Edition

More people went to malls looking for bargains, but when they didn't want to max out their credit cards they headed over to the local multi-plex. Buying a matinee movie ticket that occupies you for two hours seems like a smarter investment than splurging on a set of gifts at the store next door.

This correlation between the huge shopper turnout and record-high box office performance speaks to the value consumers perceive of going to the movie theater. Despite doom and gloom predictions last year that the recession would prevent people from paying forever more expensive movie tickets and five-dollar buckets of popcorn, the theatrical movie going business is resilient.

This is of course great for the movie studios. Warner Brothers "The Blind Side," which cost an estimated $29 million to make has grossed over $100 million at the box office in just ten days in theaters. And the theater chains also benefit from the families coming in to buy not just tickets, but also popcorn and soda — Regal, AMC, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas.

And of course we can't deny the incredible impact of the runaway hit "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." The film's box office performance dropped dramatically from last weekend's, but it still grossed $42.5 million, bringing its total take to $230.7. In just ten days in theaters New Moon has grossed more than "Twilight" did in the U.S. in its entire run. This makes the movie the biggest vampire movie on record, despite the fact that it had the steepest second weekend drop to Thanksgiving weekend ever.

Still, the box office numbers bode well for a huge finale to the year -- look out for Fox's "Avatar" and Paramount's "Up in the Air" to pack theaters.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.