General News

Summer Box Office Falls Below Expectations

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May 11, 2009 | 1:08pm EDT

From a mean green fighting machine to returning cyborgs to a fish called Nemo, this summer movie season had its share of hits and misses. Yet, the high expectations that records would be shattered didn't materialize quite as studios might have hoped."It was a real mixed bag throughout the summer, but generally speaking the perception of the quality of the films by the moviegoer was pretty low," Paul Dergarabedian of film tracking company Exhibitor Relations told Reuters.From the May debut of the X-Men sequel, X2: X-Men United, to Labor Day, Dergarabedian expected the industry would sell about $3.81 billion in tickets, inching ahead of the $3.798 billion gathered last year. But he said the number of tickets sold this summer will fall 3 to 4 percent short, Reuters reports. Considering Spider-Man snared $403 million alone last season, this year's comic book heroes paled in comparison. X-Men United captured about $215 million, while The Hulk, which many bet would be the huge success, took in about only $135 million, even though it opened on 3,660 screens, the most of any film during the summer."$135 million at the box office is not a failure," Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at Universal Pictures, told Reuters. "As much as everybody criticizes, Hulk is an incredible success for us," she said.In fact, the studio has taken in more than $668 million, powered by Hulk as well as other summer season hits including the riotous Bruce Almighty ($239 million) and the high-octane sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious ($126 million). Universal is having one its best summers ever.Likewise for Disney. Its huge success story Finding Nemo, the underwater tale about a fearful father fish's search for his son from Pixar Animation Studios Inc. and Walt Disney Co., so far has grossed $327 million, making it less than $1 million away from nudging out The Lion King as the top-grossing animated film in U.S. history at $328.2 million, Reuters reports.Kudos also go out to Disney's tale Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which has garnered more than $250 million. "The sun was shining on us this summer and we just got very lucky," Disney studios Chairman Dick Cook told Reuters.The glut of summer sequels, however, didn't seem to generate the expected buzz. The Matrix Reloaded, which raked in $278 million, was considered a hit but word of mouth kept it from reaching the upper echelon. Ditto for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle ($97 million), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ($147 million), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde ($88 million) and Bad Boys II ($128 million). And then there was that Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez starrer Gigli), which has proven to be a catastrophic flop (a pitiful $5 million), on par with all-time stinkers such as Ishtar and Heaven's Gate."There is no such thing as people waiting to see a movie any more," Rocco quipped to Reuters.

Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.

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