The end of summer marks a shift from fun popcorn flicks to serious Oscar fare, and time for studios to take stock of the most important box office season.
George Clooney won the weekend in Focus Features'"The American,"which epitomizes that seasonal shift.
Clooney was armed with guns but the film appealed more to adults than teens — two thirds of the film's audience was over 35. The film brought in $19.5 million over the six day weekend, a strong showing for a film that cost an estimated $20 million, but it's hardly a blockbuster.
And despite pricier 3-D tickets, it was hardly a blockbuster summer for the movie studios. The domestic box for the summer season (May 7 through Labor Day) dropped one percent from a year ago to $4.24 billion. The number of tickets sold declined far more dramatically — down six percent for the period to 538 million.
One factor: the summer season had one less weekend than last year.
What happened? Iron Man 2 started the summer off strong, but some big budget films like Disney's "Prince of Persia" and "Sorcerers Apprentice" and Warner Brothers' "Sex & the City 2" fell far short of expectations. Disney's "Toy Story 3" was huge — it's grossed over $1 billion worldwide — and Time Warner's "Inception" held up remarkably well, bringing in $278 million in the US and $696 worldwide.
The problem: this summer we didn't see a surprise hit like last year's "The Hangover." Instead, some expensive films like "Dinner for Schmucks" , "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Jonah Hex" fell flat. 20th Century Fox suffered more than the other studios: none of its films made it into the summer's top ten.
The winners? Disney may have suffered from two huge bombs, but thanks to Toy Story 3 and the fact that it bought "Marvel" a year ago, it has the top three films of the year. Paramount is also benefiting from the Iron Man effect — it now has 16 percent market share, followed by Warner Bros. with 15.8% thanks to "Inception." The small studios competed in the big leagues: Summit continues to deliver with its "Twilight" franchise — "Eclipse" is the fourth-biggest film of the year.
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