Written by Kirk BairdThe Avengers was the crown jewel of the summer movie season, while some big-budget flops such as Dark Shadows and Battleship took a toll on the overall box office. But the biggest losers this summer were the film studios, which watched ticket sales continue to slide. Attendance, according to Hollywood.com, dropped about 4 percent to 533 million overall, the lowest number in nearly two decades. Just since 2002, total ticket sales are down 100 million.
Just as alarming: box-office receipts also were down 2.84 percent — about $4.3 billion — from the same May to Labor Day period from 2011.
Of course, higher ticket prices and upcharges for 3D and IMAX help mask this serious problem in the industry: patrons are coming to the movies less often.
Marvel’s The Avengers got summer off to a massive bang with a $1.5 billion worldwide total haul, $620 million of which was from the domestic box office, according to boxofficemojo.com. The runner-up box-office king was The Dark Knight Rises, with $433 million domestically and more than a billion dollars worldwide. Rounding out the superhero triumvirate was The Amazing Spider-Man, which was also the third-highest grossing film this summer at $260 million domestically and $735 million worldwide.
On the flip side of these successes was Dark Shadows, which earned less than $80 million domestically for the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp supernatural dark comedy that cost $150 million to produce, and Battleship, which grossed only $65 million domestically for the $209 million film based on the Hasbro board game.
It was the foreign box office to the rescue, however, pushing both films to a profit with $236 million and $302 million total worldwide receipts, respectively.
The foreign box office also helped Men in Black 3 generate nearly $625 million worldwide and Snow White and the Huntsman earn $394 million around the globe. Not every film needed help from abroad, though.
The raunchy R-rated comedy smash Ted, about a teddy bear come to life, grossed $216 million domestically, more than four times the costs of the film. Even better was Magic Mike. The comedy-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Channing Tatum as a Tampa stripper — the film was based on the actor’s real-life experiences — earned nearly $114 million in North America, or more than 16 times its $7 million production cost.
Small-budget films also found big audiences this summer.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel earned $131 million worldwide on a budget of $10 million. And Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom grossed nearly $60 million worldwide on a budget of $16 million.
And while no production budget was available, certainly the conservative documentary 2016: Obama’s America exceeded industry expectations with more than $20 million so far at the domestic box office after an opening haul of $31,000 in mid-July in one theater in Houston.