In the shadow of blockbuster luster

Men in Black II should get into the black faster than a muzzle flash from one of those big silver weapons wielded by its alien-hunting stars.

Well, maybe not that fast.

The comedic sci-fi film cost as much as $140 million to make, by some estimates. And even though it brought in more than $85 million in just its first five days (over the July 4 holiday), a lot of the money it yields flows back out. And not just in the form of marketing.

Getting the stars back on board for the sequel to the 1997 original reportedly required quite an outlay. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith scored $20 million each, according to BusinessWeek – plus sizable shares of the revenue (12.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively).

Sony's Columbia Pictures hopes US moviegoers will continue to plunk down $8 each for some 82 short minutes of air-conditioned entertainment.

They probably will. Movie spending surges in tight economic times. Last year was a box-office record-setter. This year's sales are well ahead of that pace, even though there is evidence that more people also like to hunker down for movies at home. (Five million DVD players were sold between January and May this year – up 39 percent from that period last year.)

Where all does the movie money go besides the stars (including star directors)? Some trickles down to the industry's foot soldiers: grips, camera operators, and others.

But as today's lead story notes, those workers are the first to feel cost cuts, such as when production companies film beyond US borders.

• • •

How are the dollars you spend on the other hot tickets of summer – ball games, concerts, and theme parks – distributed? See page 16.

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