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Tough summer for box office, but not all gloom and doom

It's been a tough summer at the box office, with big-budget projects like "Ben-Hur" flopping, but it isn't all gloom and doom for movie-makers and theater owners.

In fact, ticket sales are up more than 5 percent for the year compared to the same time last year. North American box-office grosses are more than $7.7 billion so far in 2016 as of last Sunday, according to BoxOffice.com Managing Editor Daniel Loria. During the same time period in 2015, they were about $7.3 billion.

"It's not a seasonal business anymore. We're talking about a year-round release schedule, when big movies can come out in February, like 'Deadpool,' or in March like 'Batman v Superman,'" Loria said in a recent interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."


'Truly shocking'

A still from the movie "Independence Day: Resurgence"
Source: 20th Century Fox
A still from the movie "Independence Day: Resurgence"

That said, there have been several disappointments this summer like "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" and "Ben-Hur." The latter only grossed $11.2 million on its opening weekend last week, a far cry from its reported $100 million production budget.

The flop by "Ben-Hur" will likely mean a big loss for Paramount and MGM, which also spent tens of millions on marketing in addition to production costs. The studio was also behind "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," which also disappointed and cost an estimated $135 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo data.

According to MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson, Paramount could lose $350 million this year, a development that he called "truly shocking." Loria suggested the company's internal problems may be contributing to its box-office failures, with its parent company being the troubled Viacom.

The company has a "volatile boardroom" that probably doesn't have the sort of "big-budget leadership" that Disney's Bob Iger or Warner Bros.' Kevin Tsujihara have, he said. "You really need to have a studio strategy at the boardroom level."

That can been seen at Disney through its acquisitions of Lucas Films, Marvel and Pixar, he pointed out. And Warner Bros. has been able to get the Batman and Harry Potter series' "back on track," said Loria.

While studio problems may be impacting ticket sales, Loria added there has also been an embrace of a "multiverse" strategy: big-budget films that launch a series of franchises.

"Right now a movie doesn't have to be a film that's a hit by itself, it has to be a hit for the next three or four years, sustaining a narrative universe of three titles. That's the risk we're taking right now," he said.

There's also been a change in the way moviegoers are experiencing films. Now they can get things like premium seating and cinema dining, and that's helping boost sales, said Loria.

"The [theater] industry has done a very good job in finding a way to offer a moviegoing experience at a different price point."

—CNBC's Julia Boorstin and Gino Siniscalchi contributed to this report.