Studios: Kids Were Alright in '98

From E! Online, by Jim Benning

They can't drive yet, but they were a driving force at the box office this year.

The bulging population of girls and boys ages 10-16 are exerting perhaps their greatest consumer influence ever.

Just as they've turned the youth-aimed WB into the only growing broadcast television network, these sons and daughters of baby boomers became the catalyst for theatrical success in 1998--rivaling the "old" age-group standard, the 17-24-year-old-male demographic.

Industry analysts generally agree kids made hits of Scream 2, Titanic, The Waterboy and There's Something About Mary.

"The demographic bubble of teens and preteens will, over the next five to 10 years, become an increasingly significant audience," Disney studio chairman Joe Roth tells the Los Angeles Times.

Where kid power at the box office is concerned, the studios couldn't be happier. For one thing, Hollywood doesn't necessarily have to shell out big marketing dollars to get this group into theaters.

"With these 10- to 16-year-olds, word-of-mouth is key," says Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "They tell each other what's cool and what's not cool, what's gross and what's not gross."

And, to the studios' delight, they often go back for more.

"They like to go again to see their friends' reactions," Dergarabedian says. "They're insatiable in their ability to see the same film over and over again."

What's more, while some audiences shy away from seeing TV stars on the big screen, kids display such no qualms, Dergarabedian says. Witness The Rugrats Movie.

"With teenagers, there's no stigma attached to their favorite stars crossing into film," he says. "There's sort of this cross-pollination."

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