A year of escaping to the silver screen
IT'S the most popular and affordable act of escapism: a night at the cinema with a box of popcorn.
And figures show that last year we went to the movies in record-breaking droves to escape all the bad news and economic doom and gloom.
The top 10 films at the Irish box office last year drew in almost €4m more than their biggest grossing counterparts in 2009.
The blockbuster movies of 2010 pulled in an incredible €36.9m at the box office while the top 10 performing films of the previous year earned €33.1m.
'Avatar' lived up to its title as the biggest grossing film on the planet by bagging the top spot in Ireland last year with €6.2m in box office receipts, having taken in almost €2.5m in 2009.
Animated franchises 'Toy Story 3' and 'Shrek Forever After' came second and third respectively.
In a year where retailers and restaurants took a battering, the cinema appeared to buck the trend. A spokeswoman for the Irish Film board said that the box office was continuing to perform well.
"It was a very healthy year at the Irish box office with the top 10 films grossing more than last year," she said.
"'Avatar' became the biggest film ever at the Irish box office grossing almost €9m in 2009 and 2010 and there were a greater number of sequels like 'Toy Story 3' and 'Shrek Forever After' than in previous years that were able to build on existing audience awareness.
"There was the increased proliferation of digital and 3D cinema screens that allowed for delivery of premium-priced unique 3D film experiences and provided greater programming flexibility for exhibitors."
Ireland has the second-biggest cinema-going population with 4.5 annual cinema admissions per capita, ahead of the US with 4.3 admissions per head.
The sales of cinema tickets have rocketed by over 40pc over the last decade to 17.7 million tickets in 2009 from 12.5 million tickets in 1999.
Pure escapism proved to be the theme of 2010 with animation and fantasy movies the big winner at the box office. As well as 'Avatar', and the 'Toy Story' and 'Shrek' franchises, the quirky take on 'Alice in Wonderland' did well, coming in at fifth. 'Iron Man 2' and 'Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel' were also in the top 10.
The spokeswoman for the film board said the box office traditionally performed well in a recession.
"Cinema-going is a relatively cheap form of entertainment compared to theatre and eating out so is regarded as 'recession-proof'.
"On historical data it even thrives when there is an economic downturn.
"There has been an increase year on year at the box office for the last few years with more films being released than ever before.
"Audiences are experiencing not only mainstream cinema in the multiplex but also engaging with independent and world cinema in art-house cinemas, film clubs, mobile cinemas and film festivals up and down the country."
In 2009, the comedy 'the Hangover' scored the No 1 spot with the Oscar-winning 'Slumdog Millionaire' in second place, proving Irish audiences love quirky movies.
This year, cinema goers can look forward to 'The Hangover 2', a new Muppets movie -- 'The Greatest Muppets Movie Ever Made' -- Tom Cruise in 'Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol' and the latest Harry Potter blockbuster 'The Deathly Hallows Part II'.