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21 April 2024

Little to laugh about in a year full of entertainment

By Keith J Fernandez

Whichever way the wind blows in 2009, and however long the recession lasts, there will be plenty of entertainment to distract you from your troubles. The experience of past decades has shown that, in credit-crunched times such as these, entertainment and sports thrive as people look for quick-fix ways to take their mind off their troubles.

Typically, musicals, comedies and other such feel-good fare find more takers than ever before – as we have already seen with nearly a dozen frothy films, including Tropic Thunder, Get Smart and Mamma Mia! all crossing the $100-million mark in American theatres last year.

The festive season expenditure may have been down, but movies and theme parks did well. In the United States, Bedtime Stories, Marley & Me and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button became three of the highest-grossing Christmas releases in Hollywood history. And in faraway Japan, Tokyo Disneyland posted a record year in the midst of a recession.

The trend looks set to continue in 2009. A slew of movies, including the latest installment in franchises such as Harry Potter, Terminator and Star Trek, will hit the cinemas, while top albums from U2, Van Morrison, Eminem, Robbie Williams and maybe even Madonna have the fans salivating in anticipation. (All the details are part of our four-page special in tomorrow's issue).
 Even better, after years of carping from critics, there are lots of chances to air out your tux in what promises to be the most highbrow year yet for the Emirates.

It was in 2008 that Abu Dhabi finally came into its own as a new events capital, giving UAE residents a whole array of options when it comes to art and culture, and in 2009, the capital promises everything from orchestral manoeuvres featuring the music of Walt Disney to Zubin Mehta conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Expect to see more big names performing live in the UAE: James Blunt and John Legend at the Dubai Jazz Festival, Sting and the Bachchan family at the all-star Unforgettables show.

The country's first literary festival brings 50 top authors such as Paulo Coelho, Margaret Atwood and Ranulph Fiennes to our shores.

None of this, however, means the entertainment sector can look forward to the sort of runaway success that the UAE's property market, for example, has been seeing thus far. While more people would want to be distracted, the many pressures on their wallets mean consumers will demand a greater return on investment. So consumers will demand quality – but perversely, the silly bedroom farces that seem so common in Dubai theatres will find plenty of takers. Like chocolate manufacturers will attest, when life's hard, it's the little luxuries that suddenly take on enormous import. And for many consumers in 2009, one of those luxuries will be laughter.

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