Movie theaters gear up for summer blockbusters

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Movie theaters will continue to be an affordable vacation destination for many people this summer, says a Purdue University pop culture historian.

“Historically, movies provide an escape for people during tough times,” says Randy Roberts, distinguished professor of history. “Films often feature the resiliency of American characters and their triumphs.

Professor Randy Roberts, Purdue University pop culture historian

Professor Randy Roberts, Purdue University pop culture historian

“The film industry did very well last year, and it’s likely we will see the same again this year. The best predictor of financial success is a franchise film because they have a built-in audience. I suspect this summer’s ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Transformers’ and ‘Harry Potter’ will be the big box office hits.”

During the Great Depression, fantasy stories, such as extravagant musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, were produced. Today’s cinematic escape often features special effects, which is another trait common to blockbusters, Roberts says.

And while fans are enjoying this summer’s lineup, Hollywood will be working on the next round of films, which are likely to reflect the recent tough economy.

“The second type of film that emerged from the 1930s focused on issues related to the depressing times, such as gangsters and the impact of wealth on democracy,” Roberts says. “I expect will see films about bankers and shysters in the next year or two.”

Roberts has published 13 books on history, sports and Hollywood, with topics including John Wayne, Mike Tyson, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Boston sports and the Vietnam War. He also has published works on film director Oliver Stone, American presidents, and the politics and economics of televised boxing.

Roberts has made more than 50 appearances on television documentaries and films for the History Channel, ESPN Classic, HBO, BBC, PBS, E!TV, and on the ABC, CBS and NBC networks.

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