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The tourist pack is thinning on Hollywood Boulevard

June 4, 2009 |  7:25 am

Somewhere between Debbie Reynolds and Jack Benny, the Laitala family of Duluth, Minn., stopped to marvel at the throngs of tourists shuffling among the sidewalk stars of Hollywood Boulevard.

Joel Laitala, a mechanic, focused his camera on a star in the pavement while his wife, Lori, watched as costumed characters -- Superman, Capt. Jack Sparrow and Homer Simpson -- posed for photos with tourists for tips.

Every day, visitors from around the world flock to the hot sites of Hollywood, the historic birthplace of America's entertainment industry. But so far this year, the crowds are thinner, tourist spending is down and merchants are nervous.

And the Laitalas were typical of today's visitors. They were scrimping. They avoided trinket shops, theme parks and expensive eateries.

-- Hugo Martín in Hollywood