Despite ongoing economic collapse, American audiences are still finding the cash to reward studios for producing the most mediocre slate of films in memory with attendance at US theater up five percent in the past year.

The LA Times reports on the possible reasons for the upswing, in a report that shows both audiences and the industry in a state of almost complete denial about what constitutes entertainment, and what constitutes "value."

The most preposterous claim made in the piece, as industry savants try to explain the inexplicable uptick, is that the return to the theaters has "led to plenty of talk in Hollywood that recent movies might simply be better quality."

Now look here 2009, you may not have taken us off a cliff like we thought you would, but for a year in which Transformers 2 is the highest grossing film, in which seven of the top ten are franchise installments, in which Paul Blart: Mall Cop is on the top 20 — for such a year to talk to us about an upswing in quality suggests a hubris worthy of Nebakanezer himself.

Also on the LAT's list of possible causes for the return to the theater — Hollywood's now familiar Pied Piper for all that ails it — the call of 3D. They quote an industry titan:

"This is people rediscovering going to the movies."

The rapid expansion of 3-D projection this year has undoubtedly helped the industry, offering a compelling experience in theaters that can't yet be replicated in the home — along with ticket price surcharges that help the studios' and exhibitors' bottom lines.

Yes, we certainly understand the hope that moviegoers of the world will be so thrilled by the notion of pointy things jumping out of the screen that they will flood back to the multiplexes, but we fear that although the technology may be less headachey than it was in the 50's and 80's, the previous times we went through this, sooner or later the world is going to realize that they are getting the exact same lousy film except with some stuff floating in front of the screen; and they have to pay more and wear annoying glasses to see that.

Then again, maybe they won't. Demonstrating that the real answer for the trend might just be that Americans are suffering from some kind of severe brain damage or post traumatic stress, the LA Times quotes a survey:

Research firm OTX discovered in a survey early this year that consumers ranked moviegoing as the best value for their entertainment dollar.

In early 2008, a similar survey ranked moviegoing fifth, behind going out to dinner, watching a DVD at home, watching favorite TV shows, and surfing the Web.

Yes, suddenly paying 10 - 15 dollars a head, plus another 10 for popcorn, plus parking, is now a better value than watching television...which is, all included, free. So perhaps the failure of American society in general will provide all the solutions to Hollywood's problems. Rather than making movies better, we can sit back until more people to be spat out of the post-apocalypse education system and let the sea level fall until the audiences are stupid enough that they actually think:

1. Transformers 2 is good.
2. They are getting a great value on it.

Just like in a Hollywood movie, looks like in the end, everything's going to fall into place just fine.