Box Office: End-of-Summer Blues

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.

Source: Focus Features

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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